The Commission said on Thursday it would provide financial aid to help dairy companies store their produce, covering the costs for three to seven months. Funding will initially be offered to producers of butter, skimmed milk powder and cheeses with protected status such as Italy’s Parmigiano-Reggiano (parmesan).
The move follows Russia’s decision earlier this month to ban European food imports in response to EU sanctions over Moscow’s role in the Ukraine conflict. Cheese exports from Europe to Russia were worth almost €1 billion last year, while the total value of dairy exports reached €2.3 billion in 2013.
The decision was welcomed with “satisfaction” by the Parmigiano-Reggiano Consortium.
“This is the response we have been waiting for,” said consortium president Giuseppe Alai.
“These measures allow producers to be supported in a critical phrase for the market, in which the Russian embargo closes one of the commercial channels that in recent years has been one of the most interesting in terms of growth,” Alai said in a statement.
Italian agriculture association Coldiretti said that while many producers will come to depend on the EU support, the European Commission had not gone far enough.
“The total sum allocated is not sufficient to cover the losses and some important Italian products hit by the block remain excluded, for example certain dairy products and those with protected origin,” Coldiretti said online.
The agricultural organization put the value of Italy’s dairy exports to Russia at €45 million last year, including €13 million worth of mozzarella not yet covered by the EU aid package.