Bulgaria started accepting applications on September 1 from farmers affected by the Russian import ban on foodstuffs from EU member states, put in place in retaliation for EU’s sanctions stemming from Moscow’s annexation of Crimea.
The European Commission has said that it would allocate 125 million euro to compensate producers affected by the Russian ban, on a first-come, first-served basis.
Last week, Bulgaria’s caretaker Agriculture Minister Vassil Groudev said that the authorities in Sofia would seek up to 10 million leva (about five million euro) of the EC allocation for Bulgarian farmers affected by the Russian counter-sanctions. Groudev said that he intended to discuss the issue with the agriculture commissioner Dacian Ciolos when the two meet on September 5.
In addition to the lost revenue from the Russian ban, Bulgarian farmers feared a loss of market share as a result of produce from other EU member states, initially meant for the Russian market but now redirected towards Bulgaria, public broadcaster Bulgarian National Radio (BNR) reported.
The issue took on connotations of wounded national pride as locally-produced tomatoes – emblematic of Bulgaria’s agricultural exports for decades – were losing out to cheaper Polish imports on the Bulgarian market, BNR said.
To stem the flow, Groudev said that Bulgaria would step up checks on its borders and at wholesale locations to insure that all agricultural imports into the country were taxed accordingly, so as not to provide unfair competition to local produce.
Groudev also said that the ministry would draft regulations that would allow compensating local producers if the inflow of imports leaves the farmers unable to sell their produce on the domestic market, as well as subsidise Bulgarian farmers lost money because imports put pressure on wholesale prices.