Romania - Corona agri news - update
Romania removes the export ban on agri-food products
Suspension of flights to/from NL prolonged by 14 days
New procedure for approval of charter flights for seasonal workers
Update - 17.04.2020
Romania removes the export ban on agri-food products. A new Military Ordinance (no.9) was issued on 16.04.2020. As of today 17.04.2020 the export of cereals, oilseeds, oil, sugar, milling and bakery products etc. is no longer banned. The respective articles of the previous Military Ordinance (no.8) which set the ban one week ago are now completely abolished. The explanation was that following the discussions which took place between the Government and commodity traders, solutions have been found to refill the State reserves, thus ensuring the food security of the population until the next harvest.
Farmers’ markets must stay open, also according to this Military Ordinance, and local authorities must ensure that protection means are used (masks, gloves) and the social distancing measure is respected. These little markets are the only outlet for many small agricultural producers selling seasonal products. Food shopping increased considerably this week before Orthodox Easter.
The suspension of flights to/from the Netherlands is prolonged by 14 days, starting with April 18, 2020. Note: EU citizens can still enter into Romania. However, citizens coming from “red-zone” countries (including the Netherlands) are placed in state quarantine for 14 days.
Farmers are asking the government to take measures to decrease the number of wild boars which are devastating the agricultural fields, and exempt hunters from the current movement restrictions triggered by of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Update - 16.04.2020
Minister of Agriculture held a press meeting on 15.04.2020. He mentioned that the measure of banning the export of cereals, oilseeds, oil, sugar, milling and bakery products was based on alarming signals related to the current severe drought and the recent export figures which showed that the export of these products in March 2020 doubled compared to the same month of last year. And the population’s food security must come first. However, he did not provide any figures. But he did mention that the list of products banned for export can be completed / updated depending on the evolution of the internal situation, showing that such changes can occur "in the next days or in the next period".
On 15.04.2020, the state of emergency was extended by 30 days. That means that new extraordinary measures related to Covid-19 can continue to be adopted through Military Ordinances.
Romania has just performed a State Budget rectification comprising several changes in Budget allocation. The budget of the Ministry of Agriculture was increased by 100 million RON (approx. 20 million EUR) to be used as state guarantees for loans taken by agricultural companies. Most of the budget was allocated to the Ministry of Labour – 8 billion RON (1.6 billion EUR, mainly for unemployment benefits) and the Ministry of Health – 3.8 billion RON (0.8 billion EUR). Estimates indicate now a GDP decrease of 1.9% and a budget deficit of 6.7% for 2020.
According to Der Spiegel, the first death of a Romanian working on an asparagus farm in Germany occurred on April 11, 2020. Apparently he got infected in Germany. This news refuels the hot debates about the controversial issue of Romanian seasonal workers leaving the country.
Update - 14.04.2020
Romania: Additional information regarding movement of seasonal workers to other countries
Military Ordinance no. 7/4.04.2020 which allowed the movement of seasonal workers to other countries by means of charter flights did not provide details on how this activity should be organised.
At the end of last week, following the irregularities noticed during the departure of the first charter flights with seasonal workers to Germany, the Romanian Ministry of Transport issued an Order (no. 875 of 10.04.2020) setting the procedure for approval of these flights.
The recruitment agencies are still the ones who must arrange all the ins and outs of this ‘operation’, however the airline companies must fulfil some requirements in order to be allowed to carry out the flight.
The procedure states that an approval for these flights needs to be obtained first from the Civil Aviation Authority (www.caa.ro). The airline operator must send a request to CAA at least 48 hours before the scheduled flight time, accompanied by a set of documents (see attached a rough/summary translation of the order).
CAA then issues the requested approval within maximum 24 hours from the receipt of the complete documentation
However, CAA shall not approve flights which are scheduled at an interval of less than 4 hours between them. This can obviously limit the number of flights which can depart from an airport every day.
Also, the companies which do the transport of workers from their residence areas to the airports, must notify in advance the Road Transport Authority about the respective services. They must also make sure that passengers do not arrive at the airport more than 4 h before the flight.
Also previously planned and arranged charter flights must undergo this new procedure.
Reactions to Romania’s ban on export of cereals, oilseeds and products thereof
On 10.04.2020 Romania decided to ban exports of cereals, oilseeds and products thereof to third countries (during the State of Emergency period – expected to last until mid-May), while conditioning intra-community trade by a proof that the products will not leave the EU. The proof consists in a statement issued by the MS buying company – see exact text https://www.madr.ro/comunicare/download/4073_03168d064562383ca55f32312640e9ab.html
Severe criticisms followed this decision. Internally, these were formulated not only by politicians, but especially by experts and members of professional/branch associations/specialised journalists. Main aspects raised: the private sector has not been consulted before the Military Ordinance was issued, there was no indication that the stock of these raw materials was running out, Romania produces much more such raw materials than needed for domestic consumption, the ones who will suffer are actually Romanian farmers and traders whose contracts are stopped overnight, commercial relations built up during several years are now jeopardized, the inclusion of processed products (including even biscuits!) is a big mistake considering Romania’s effort to shift from raw material export to processed products export.
According to Bloomberg, the European Commission said there are no market-related reasons to limit trade within or outside the single market. Restrictions that place an “undue burden” on agricultural exporters will hurt food security, according to an emailed statement last Saturday. “The Commission does not have any information, which indicates that Romania is facing or will soon face shortages of agricultural products intended for human consumption,” said EU Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski. “The reported measure appears to be not proportionate.”
It is very likely that a new Military Ordinance shall be issued soon to amend the provisions related to these export limitations. However, it is not yet known how big a step-back Romania would take. The ban on processed products might be removed, however the one on raw materials might be kept or reformulated.
Retailer Mega Image (part of Ahold-Delhaize) decided to give a 25% bonus to its “front-line” employees from stores and warehouses, starting with March 9, showing appreciation for the risk they are taking during challenging times.