The EU actively supports the fruit and vegetables sector through its market-management scheme with four broad goals:
- a more competitive and market-oriented sector thanks to producer organisations;
- fewer crisis-related fluctuations in producers' income;
- greater consumption of fruit and vegetables in the EU;
- increased use of eco-friendly cultivation and production techniques.
The scheme promotes product quality by applying marketing standards and supporting operational measures.
Producer organisations (POs) are the basic actors in the fruit and vegetables regime and growers are encouraged to join them to strengthen their positions in the market. The EU fruit and vegetables regime supports POs for implementing operational programmes with funding contributions.
In certain EU regions, for a transitional period, fruits and vegetables producer groups (PGs) formed on the initiative of growers can get financial aid to help them attain recognition as producer organisations.
The POs regime requires national authorities to recognise any group of producers that applies for PO status, if they meet the requirements:
- be voluntary;
- contribute to the general aims of the regime;
- prove its utility by the scope and efficiency of the services offered to members.
The national authorities must set up a national strategy for sustainable operational programmes, to define which measures are eligible for support. POs' operational programmes must be approved by the relevant national authorities.
The European Commission monitors and evaluates both the programmes and the national strategy, based on a common set of performance indicators. POs submit annual reports on the implementation of their operational programmes to the relevant national authority. The annual reports must accompany their applications for aid. Similarly, each country must send the European Commission an annual report on all their POs, PGs, operational funds and programmes, and recognition plans.
A recognised PO may set up an operational fund to finance its operational programme. This fund is financed by the financial contribution of members (or the PO itself) and the EU financial assistance. As a general rule, the EU financial assistance is limited to 50% of the total operational fund, and may be increased at 60% in specific cases.
In regions where producers haven't formed organisations to any great extent, national governments may provide national funding, over and above the operational fund. In some cases, this may be partially reimbursed by the EU.
At the request of a PO, an EU country may also make binding, for a limited period, some of the rules agreed on within that organisation on other non-member producers in the region or regions where the PO is operating.
Recognition of interbranch organisations is also favoured where they proof to be sufficiently representative of the various occupational categories of the fruit and vegetables sector and carry out practical actions contributing to the goals of the scheme.
To reduce fluctuations of producers' incomes caused by crises, EU funding is available for crisis prevention and management measures implemented by POs under their operational programmes.
Funding is available for the following variety of actions.
1. Market withdrawals
When withdrawing products from the market, not putting them up for sale, funds are available under strict rules.
For 16 main products, the maximum amounts of support for withdrawals – including both the EU and PO contributions – are set out in annex iv to EU regulation 891/2017.
If any country decides to allow withdrawals of other products, they must set maximum amounts of support for them. For each product, withdrawals cannot exceed 5% of the volume of production marketed by the PO (volumes going to free distribution are excluded from this calculation).
The volume of marketed production is to be calculated as the average of the previous three years or, if this information is not available (e.g. for newly recognised POs), on the basis of the volume of marketed production for which the PO was recognised.
The ways withdrawn products can be used are determined by national authorities, but one of the options must be free distribution. It may be possible to use them in the processing industry, if this does not distort competition for the industries concerned (in or outside the EU).
2. Green harvesting and non-harvesting
Green harvesting refers to totally harvesting non-marketable (but not damaged) products on a given cultivated area, before the normal harvest. Non-harvesting refers to not taking any commercial production from the cultivated area during the normal production cycle and does not include destruction of products due to climatic event or disease. Both measures may not have any environmental or phytosanitary impact.
Both measures must be additional to and different from normal cultivation practices. They cannot both be used for the same product and area in any given year, or in any 2 consecutive years.
Countries that allow these measures must adopt detailed rules on their implementation and control.
Compensation amounts (including EU and PO contributions) must be set per hectare by national authorities, to cover either:
- only additional costs generated by the harvesting (including environmental and phytosanitary management), or
- not more than 90% of the maximum support level for withdrawal.
3. Promotion, communication and training
Countries that allow these measures must adopt detailed rules on their implementation. Any action under promotion/communication measures must be additional to any ongoing promotion/communication action being applied by the PO concerned.
4. Harvest insurance
EU funding is available for harvest insurance managed by a PO or its own members to help safeguard members’ incomes and cover market losses caused by natural disasters, climatic events, diseases or pest infestations. National authorities must adopt detailed rules on harvest insurance, especially to ensure it doesn't distort competition in the insurance market.
They may also contribute additional national financing. However, the total public support for harvest insurance (EU plus national) cannot exceed the following percentages of insurance premiums paid by producers:
- 80% of the premium for insurance solely against losses due to adverse climatic events that can be regarded as natural disasters;
- 50% of the premium for insurance against natural disasters and other losses due to adverse climatic events or against animal / plant disease or pest infestations.
Harvest insurance measures may not cover insurance payments that compensate producers for more than 100% of the income loss suffered, taking into account any compensation from other related support schemes. Measures can provide support for the administrative cost of setting up or replenishment of the mutual funds.
EU funding is available in the first 3 years of the mutual fund's operation – covering the following proportions of the PO's contribution:
|Year 1||Year 2||Year 3|
National authorities must adopt detailed rules for implementing this measure. They may fix ceilings for the amounts that may be received by a PO.
100% EU financial assistance is available for transfer of knowledge on crisis prevention and management measures from experienced POs or APOs all over EU to junior POs, PGs or individual producers (the latter located in regions with an organisation rate lower than 20%). In addition, to the improvement of the efficiency linked to the implementation of these measures, it may also promote the setting-up of new producer organisations, merging existing ones or enabling individual producers to join an existing producer organisation; creating networking opportunities for coaching providers and recipients, to strengthen in particular marketing channels as a mean of crisis prevention and management.
6. Replanting of orchards
Following the mandatory grubbing up, replanting of orchards is supported.
7. More efficient management
Countries may support investments making the management of the volumes placed on the market more efficient.
A school fruit scheme has been created to promote fruit and vegetable consumption by children. Support is also given to free distribution of fruit and vegetables to schools, hospitals and charities. Other activities promoting consumption under PO's operational programmes can also receive support.
As a measure of crisis management, when growers withdraw produce from the market, they can receive funding under the EU regime for disposing it. This involves giving produce for free to the following bodies:
- recognised charitable bodies and foundations, for use in their work helping the disadvantaged;
- penal institutions, schools/public education institutions, children’s holiday camps, hospitals and old people’s homes.
National authorities must designate which such bodies can receive free produce and ensure the quantities they receive are additional to (i.e. not replacing) the quantities these bodies normally buy in.
The EU funds 100% of free distribution (compared to 50 or 60% for other uses of withdrawn produce), for quantities up to 5% of the PO's total marketed volume. This consists of the following:
- compensation paid in €/100 kg of withdrawn produce (with maximum amounts set for the main 16 products);
- flat-rate amounts for logistical costs (transport, sorting and packing).
National authorities must take all the necessary steps to facilitate contact and cooperation between POs and the bodies they have approved to receive free produce.
At least 10% of spending in the operational programmes must be on environmental actions that go beyond mandatory environmental standards. Alternatively, programmes must include at least 2 such actions.
When receiving income support or agri-environmental payments under EU rural development programmes, growers are subject to penalties if they fail to meet mandatory environmental standards (cross-compliance).
National frameworks for environmental actions
Countries with recognised POs must draw up a national framework for environmental actions (NEF) as part of their national strategy for sustainable operational programmes.
Unlike other parts of the strategy, national authorities must submit their proposed NEF to the European Commission, which verifies compliance with the goals set out in article 191 of the Treaty on the functioning of the European Union.
The NEF must contain a non-exhaustive list of environmental actions and the conditions applicable to them in the country concerned.
For each action, it must indicate:
- the specific commitment(s) entailed;
- the justification – i.e. the expected environmental impact, in relation to environmental needs and priorities.
Details on NEFs by country are laid out in the country files.
Marketing standards are applied to certain products to promote quality. The number of specific standards has been reduced from 36 to 10, applied to the following fruits and vegetables:
|lettuces, curled-leaved and broad-leaved endives||peaches and nectarines||pears|
|strawberries||sweet peppers||table grapes|
There are a number of products no longer covered by specific standards: apricots, artichokes, asparagus, aubergines, avocados, beans, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, cherries, courgettes, cucumbers, cultivated mushrooms, hazelnuts in shell, headed cabbages, leeks, melons, onions, peas, plums, ribbed celery, spinach, walnuts in shell, watermelons and chicory.
National authorities can exempt products (e.g. misshapen, under-sized) from specific marketing standards if they are labelled "products intended for processing" or "animal feed" or any other equivalent wording.
Garlic imports are subject to a system of import licences and certificates of origin.
Every EU country is required to set up a database of traders that market fresh fruit and vegetables covered by marketing standards. A fruit and vegetable trader is any individual or body who displays, offers for sale, sells or markets (including distance selling, online or otherwise) produce in any way – either within the EU, for export outside the EU or for import into the EU, as defined by EU regulation 543/2011.
The national authorities must ensure that checks are carried out selectively, based on risk analysis and with appropriate frequency, to ensure compliance with the standards and other statutory requirements for marketing fruit and vegetables.
The risk analysis must be based on the information recorded in the traders database. National authorities must lay down in advance which criteria they will use to determine the risk of non-compliance for a batch of produce.
Where checks reveal significant irregularities, the authorities must check more frequently. Traders must give inspection bodies all the information they need to organise and carry out compliance checks. Based on a product-by-product risk assessment, the authorities may choose not to selectively check products not covered by a specific marketing standard (i.e. are covered by the general standard or a UNECE standard).
Approved non-EU countries
Any country exporting to the EU that has performed its own compliance checks may ask the European Commission to judge whether those checks meet the specific EU marketing standards, or at least equivalent standards.
The country may be granted "approved" status for products originating on its territory that have passed these checks. The European Commission may suspend approval if it finds that, in a significant number of batches and quantities, the goods don't correspond to the information in the conformity certificates issued by the non-EU inspection body.
Updated marketing standards
UNECE has developed over 50 specific marketing standards for fresh fruit and vegetables (including the 10 types covered by the specific EU marketing standards).
Specific EU marketing standards for individual products must be in line with the relevant UNECE standards, as per EU regulation 543/2011 and are updated regularly to this effect.
Products exempted from the general marketing standard
|non-cultivated mushrooms of CN code 0709 59||capers of CN code 07099040|
|bitter almonds of CN code 08021110||shelled almonds of CN code 080212|
|shelled hazelnuts of CN code 080222||shelled walnuts of CN code 080232|
|pine nuts of CN code 08029050||pistachios of CN code 08025000|
|macadamia of CN code 08026000||pecans of CN code ex08029020|
|other nuts of CN code 08029085||dried plantains of CN code 08030090|
|dried citrus of CN code 0805||mixtures of tropical nuts of CN code 08135031|
|mixtures of other nuts of CN code 08135039||saffron of CN code 091020|
EU regulation 1308/2013 – establishing a common organisation of the markets in agricultural products.
EU implementing regulation 2017/892 – laying down the rules for the application of EU regulation 1308/2013 with regard to the fruit and vegetables and processed fruit and vegetables sectors.
EU implementing regulation 543/2011 – implementing rules for fruit and vegetables.
EU delegated regulation 2017/891 – supplementing EU regulation 1308/2013 with regard to fruit and vegetables and processed fruit and vegetables sectors and supplementing EU regulation 1306/2013 with regard to penalties to be applied in those sectors and amending EU implementing regulation 543/2011.
The fruit and vegetables market observatory contains the latest market monitoring of production, prices, trade, and other statistics.
The European Commission has published a report and the related staff working document on the implementation of the provisions concerning POs, operational funds and operational programmes since the 2007 reform of fruit and vegetables regime.