European Commission is being urged strongly by seven European Countries, spearheaded by Italy, to initiate urgent measures to support the European rice market. Italy’s Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies, stated that it has launched the initiative together with other leading rice producing countries like France, Spain, Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Portugal and Romania and signed a mutual strategic document with four fundamental demands. These include
- The activation of the safeguard clause for imports from less developed countries.
- The recognition of the specificity of the sector in the new Common Agricultural Policy.
- Enhancing labeling models through initiatives to increase the consumption of rice produced in the EU.
- Conducting in-depth studies to assess the effects that these systems have on less-developed countries.
The Minister Ms. Maurizio Martina said, “Preserving the income of Italian rice producers is the top priority that Italy and Europe can no longer afford a market imbalance caused by agreements that put our farmers at a disadvantage and are in danger of resetting European rice production”. Since 1st September 2009, when full liberalisation of imports from less-developed countries began, a recent market analysis shows a progressive increase of rice imports to the EU that has risen 65 percent since the season 2008/2009, reaching a record 1.34 Million Metric Tonnes (MMT) in 2015/2016. Over the same period there has also been a 45 percent increase in imports of rice in small packages, while European stocks have reached record levels of 586,000 Metric Tonnes (MT) which is approximately 30% of the EU production. If these trends continue, there is a real risk that EU will become completely dependent on rice imports, warned Italian authorities.