Furious farmers defy Russia with free fruit

Agricultural workers gave 10 tonnes (10,000kg) of free fruit and vegetables to residents of the Spanish capital on Friday morning in protest against the Russian embargo on European farm imports.

Furious farmers defy Russia with free fruit
Russia retaliated to having santions imposed on them by banning the import of some foodstuffs from the EU for a year. Photo: Gabinete de Prensa de UPA/Flickr

Unions and co-operatives in the sector organized the give-away under the slogan "Save the Spanish agricultural sector from the serious consequences of the Russian embargo".

Groups including Asaja, COAG and UPA demanded compensation from EU Agriculture Ministers who are currently meeting in Brussels.Madrid residents were invited to help themselves to items including peaches, pears, apples and potatoes.

According to the Spanish edition of the Huffington Post, the event also included a social media photocall. Recipients of the free fruit were encouraged to post selfies of themselves with the hashtags #BesaLaFruta (kiss the fruit) and to declare themselves against the #VetoRuso (Russian embargo).

Spanish fruit exports to Russia usually total €340 million ($441 million) a year and loss of access to the market has had "very serious" effects on the sector according to unions.

Producers across Europe, who exported €9 billion of food to Russia last year, have been left with a glut of certain foodstuffs as a result of the embargo.

Russia's year-long embargo on fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and dairy imports from the European Union was announced in early August. It was imposed as a retaliation for sanctions imposed on Russia  because of its support for rebels in Ukraine.

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WTO rules US tariffs on Spanish olives breach rules

A US decision to slap steep import duties on Spanish olives over claims they benefited from subsidies constituted a violation of international trade rules, the World Trade Organisation ruled Friday.

WTO rules US tariffs on Spanish olives breach rules
Farmers had just begun harvesting olives in southern Spain when former US President Donald Trump soured the mood with the tariffs' announcement. Photo: Jorge Guerrero/AFP

Former US president Donald Trump’s administration slapped extra tariffs on Spain’s iconic agricultural export in 2018, considering their olives were subsidised and being dumped on the US market at prices below their real value.

The combined rates of the anti-subsidy and anti-dumping duties go as high as 44 percent.

The European Commission, which handles trade policy for the 27 EU states, said the move was unacceptable and turned to the WTO, where a panel of experts was appointed to examine the case.

In Friday’s ruling, the WTO panel agreed with the EU’s argument that the anti-subsidy duties were illegal.

But it did not support its stance that the US anti-dumping duties violated international trade rules.

The panel said it “recommended that the United States bring its measures into conformity with its obligations”.

EU trade commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis hailed the ruling, pointing out that the US duties “severely hit Spanish olive producers.”

Demonstrators take part in a 2019 protest in Madrid, called by the olive sector
Demonstrators take part in a 2019 protest in Madrid called by the olive sector to denounce low prices of olive oil and the 25 percent tariff that Spanish olives and olive oil faced in the United States. (Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP)

“We now expect the US to take the appropriate steps to implement the WTO ruling, so that exports of ripe olives from Spain to the US can resume under normal conditions,” he said.

The European Commission charges that Spain’s exports of ripe olives to the United States, which previously raked in €67 million ($75.6 million) annually, have shrunk by nearly 60 percent since the duties were imposed.

The office of the US Trade Representative in Washington did not immediately comment on the ruling.

According to WTO rules, the parties have 60 days to file for an appeal.

If the United States does file an appeal though, it would basically amount to a veto of the ruling.

That is because the WTO Appellate Body — also known as the supreme court of world trade — stopped functioning in late 2019 after Washington blocked the appointment of new judges.