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EU agriculture ministers supported Slovenia’s initiative of greater transparency in honey mixture provenance designation

Minister Irena Šinko participated in the EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting. This was the first meeting taking place under the Swedish Presidency, so the programme of the Presidency for the following half year was presented in the beginning. With the support of 19 Member States, Slovenia presented the initiative to revise Council Directive on honey, in the part referring to provenance designation of honey mixtures.

Minister standing in front of the microphones and talking.

Minister Šinko talking at the doorstep. | Author Ministrstvo za kmetijstvo, gozdarstvo in prehrano

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The EU Ministers were informed by the Commission of the circumstances in agricultural markets, particularly in the light of the consequences of the state of war in Ukraine. According to the Minister Irena Šinko, Slovenia is rather concerned in seeing the uncertainty in future supply and rising costs of incoming materials, in particular fertilizers, energy and animal feed and, as a consequence, the rising purchase prices of agricultural products. “The circumstances in agricultural markets in Slovenia have actually been stabilizing to a certain degree. At the moment, no decrease in animal numbers, or additional problems in provision of animal feed have been perceived; however, difficulties are encountered in the fruit and vegetable sectors. Considering the dimensions of the problem and an existing risk as to future developments, it is appropriate to continue discussion on the application of crisis reserves. Slovenia supports the Hungarian proposal of temporarily increasing the share of direct payments, for a possible allotment to production-linked payments.” In addition, Slovenia is in favour of the measures as already adopted by the EU, and intended for the stabilisation of conditions in agricultural markets, and welcomes the endeavours of preserving agricultural production in Ukraine, which is of paramount importance in maintaining global food security.

The Minister presented to the EU Council the initiative by Slovenia to revise Council Directive on honey, in the part referring to honey mixture provenance designation. This is an issue of giving holistic information to consumers, and of distinction between provenance information levels in view of honey price. According to the Minister, honey mixture designation, as defined by the current Directive, does not guarantee the clear and unambiguous information on honey provenance. “The consumer may choose a more expensive honey. However, if choosing a more inexpensive one that is designated as a honey mixture with the provenance in the EU and non-EU, or only non-EU, the consumer receives incomplete information in addition to a lower price. The aim of this initiative is to protect the consumers, so that at honey mixture purchase they may get holistic and clear information on honey mixture provenance, thereby protecting honey producers as well, and securing the sustainable orientation of the honey production sector and apiculture within the EU. Revision of Council Directive on honey is thus an opportunity to improve the transparency of honey mixtures, and thereby, to improve the profitability of the sector, and to regain consumer trust in EU products.” Slovenia was supported by the majority of Member States, and thus, Slovenia expects the European Commission to take into account in the proposed revision of Council Directive on honey the ambitious expectations of the Member States and of stakeholders in Commission’s public consultations of the past year. At conclusion of discussion, the EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development commended Slovenia for having been most active in this particular area, pointing out his awareness of importance of the issue, and giving assurance to strive for the proposal to incorporate the expectations of the Member States, and to facilitate the unhindered functioning of the Single Market of the European Union, with no additional administrative burdens.

At the meeting, the Portuguese delegation called for revision of legislation on animal transport, as an important link in food production. Slovenia agrees that, in drawing up new legislative proposals, it is important to follow the goal of providing best animal welfare conditions during transport throughout the Single Market, as well as in animal exports to third countries. “It is important that new legislation clearly addresses open questions and abolishes any non-transparencies in interpretation of legislation, and provides for the uniform implementation of controls throughout the EU,” pointed out in discussion Minister Šinko.

At EU Council, an exchange of opinions took place on the possibilities of bioeconomy in the light of current challenges, primarily in rural areas. Minister Šinko highlighted that bioeconomy had great potential in the EU, and great importance in achieving the Green Deal targets. “Bioeconomy is an area that surpasses the framework of Common Agricultural and Fisheries Policy. To this end, synergies of the entire economy need to be exploited. The environmental and climate aspects need to be taken into account, comprising in these endeavours also the development of bioeconomy.”

At the meeting, the Presidency presented also information on progress made in discussion of the proposal for a Directive amending the Directive on industrial emissions, involving provisions referring to the agricultural sector. This is an important dossier also from the point of view of agriculture, as it envisages an extension of the scope of application of Directive so as to comprise the entire livestock farming, and the reduction of thresholds. As presented in discussion by the Minister, Slovenia can support the new obligations, taking into account that proportionality is maintained at definition of thresholds, and taking into account the increased administrative burdens for agricultural holdings and for the administration.

The opening of today’s meeting was dedicated to presentation of programme of the Swedish Presidency of the EU Council in the field of agriculture, food safety, fisheries, and forestry. The work of the Presidency will be impacted by the developments linked to Russia’s aggression of Ukraine and, for this reason, issues linked to food production and food security will be given precedence. In the field of forestry, work will commence on a proposal for a Regulation on the monitoring of forests and strategic plans, and there will continue the monitoring of implementation of the EU Forest Strategy. In the field of fisheries, the Presidency will open discussion on the review of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), including the common regulation of the market.