Official Journal of the European Union

CE 286/41

Thursday 19 June 2008
Future of the sheep/lamb and goat sector in Europe


European Parliament resolution of 19 June 2008 on the future of the sheep/lamb and goat sector in Europe (2007/2192(INI))

2009/C 286 E/10

The European Parliament,

having regard to the study it commissioned on ‘The future of the sheep-meat and goat-meat sectors in Europe’,

having regard to its position of 13 December 2007 on the proposal for a Council regulation amending Regulation (EC) No 21/2004 as regards the date of introduction of electronic identification for ovine and caprine animals (1),

having regard to Rule 45 of its Rules of Procedure,

having regard to the report of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (A6-0196/2008),


whereas the sheep and goat sectors in the EU are made up of important traditional farming enterprises that support the livelihood of thousands of producers and supply products of exceptional quality with specific characteristics, as well as by-products, thereby serving to underline its socio-economic contribution in rural areas of the EU,


whereas sheep and goat farming, including the farming of traditional breeds, play a key environmental role that includes the upkeep naturally of less fertile areas and the preservation of landscapes and sensitive ecosystems; whereas natural spaces of the pastureland type have been preserved for centuries thanks to sheep and goat farming; whereas, in addition, the eating patterns concerned, in which grazing plays a major role, help maintain the biodiversity of the flora, protect wild fauna, and clean up the natural spaces by removing dry vegetable material, a key factor for fire prevention in Mediterranean countries,


whereas the sheep and goat sectors in the EU, which are concentrated in less favoured areas, are witnessing a critical decline in production and an exodus of producers, as well as a total failure to attract young sheep and goat farmers to the sector,


whereas the current bluetongue epizootic in Europe is very serious because of its duration and propagation, the spread of different serotypes in areas hitherto free from the disease and the serious social and economic consequences of the restrictions on the movement of animals and on trade,


whereas the sheep and goat sectors in the EU are characterised by low producer incomes, falling domestic production and declining consumption, especially by the younger generations, and are exposed to increasing international competition on the internal market,


whereas the rise in the prices of animal feed and production inputs in general constitutes a particular threat to sheep and goat farming, increasing costs and bringing further pressure to bear on a sector which is already at the limit of its competitiveness,


whereas the current economic situation and the expected trends in world demand and the prices of agricultural produce and food make it imperative for the EU to avoid, as far as possible, dependence on imported livestock-farming products and animal feed and to secure a better balance between those products and, in particular, the traditional, protected products of sheep and goat farming, with which the European market was well supplied,


whereas the scale of sheep and goat production in northern and southern Europe are significantly different,


whereas sheep farming, which has always been exposed to a number of well-known diseases, is now also being affected by emerging diseases such as bluetongue,


whereas EU lamb does not have meaningful access to the Community budget for the promotion of agricultural produce and is in need of a sustained promotional campaign to develop consumer preference,


whereas the upcoming Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) ‘Health Check’ provides the opportunity to address the relevant policy instruments and CAP support for the sheep and goat sectors,


Acknowledges the urgent need for action to be taken by the Council of Agriculture Ministers and the Commission to ensure a profitable and sustainable future for sheep-meat and goat-meat and sheep and goat milk production in the EU, to encourage the consumption of such products once more, and to retain and attract young sheep and goat farmers to the sector, and advocates the maintenance of these traditional, eco-friendly farming enterprises with their role in supplying the Community market and in providing a Community supply base of EU sheep and goat farming products;


Notes the Commission's intention to review policy instruments since it has been demonstrated that there has been a negative impact; welcomes the further reference to this specific issue in the context of the recently published European Commission communication — Preparing for the ‘Health Check’ of the CAP reform (COM(2007)0722);


Calls on the Council of Agriculture Ministers and the Commission to direct additional financial support as a matter of urgency to EU sheep and goat meat and milk producers in order to develop a vibrant, self-sufficient, market-led and consumer-orientated sheep and goat sector in the EU; calls on the Council of Agriculture Ministers and the Commission to examine the future of these sectors as part of the CAP ‘Health Check’ through the implementation of a variety of measures, giving each Member State the flexibility of choosing from the following possible options, while not overlooking the need to avoid distortion of competition on the internal market:

introduction of a new Environmental Sheep Maintenance Scheme per ewe to be either a) financed directly by EU funding or b) co-financed by EU and National Governments to arrest the decline in production, linked to the positive environmental attributes associated with the maintenance of sheep production as well as achieving improvements in technical and quality areas of production,

analysis of the availability and utilisation of unused funds under Pillar 1 and Pillar 2 of the Common Agricultural Policy, with a view to redirecting that support to the sheep and goat sectors,

amendment of Article 69 of Council Regulation (EC) No 1782/2003 of 29 September 2003 establishing common rules for direct support schemes under the common agricultural policy and establishing certain support schemes for farmers (2) in the framework of the CAP ‘Health Check’ so the Member States can allocate up to 12 % of their national payments to measures to support sectors in difficulty and to maintain agriculture in less favoured areas,

inclusion of measures in support of sheep and goat producers among the new challenges arising from the CAP ‘Health Check’ under the second pillar, with the possibility of using modulation support funds;


Calls on the Commission to introduce an additional payment for farmers in mountain regions and other areas facing particular difficulties who are engaged in farming with rare traditional and regional breeds of sheep and goat in order to maintain biodiversity in agriculture and to preserve sheep in sensitive areas;


Calls on the Commission, as part of the simplification process in the review of the CAP ‘Health Check’, to allow 14 days’ notice to livestock farmers for on-farm cross-compliance inspections;


Notes that the return to the producer for sheep-meat products as a percentage of the retail price is insufficient and draws attention to its declaration on investigating and remedying abuse of power by large supermarkets operating in the European Union (3); welcomes the fact that the Commission has established a High Level Group on the Competitiveness of the Agro-Food Industry which will examine the situation regarding market power in distribution, and counts on representatives from Parliament being fully involved in its work;


Calls on the Commission to investigate the sheep-meat and goat-meat supply chain to ensure that farmers receive a fair return from the marketplace;


Calls on the Commission to foster a climate of direct sales by producers and producer organisations in order to limit artificial increases in price;


Notes that sheep and goat milk production should be encouraged on the same footing as sheep and goat meat production, particularly in order to guarantee the survival of the whole milk-processing and cheese-production chains where the typical character and quality of their products are widely recognised;


Calls on the Council of Agriculture Ministers and the Commission to consider the possibility of introducing Community financing for the application throughout the European Union of the system — intended for 31 December 2009 — of electronic identification for sheep, because, even if this system will improve traceability, flock management and measures against fraud, it will create new administrative burdens and high costs for this sector, which is in crisis;


Calls on the Commission to improve its ability to respond to outbreaks of animal diseases as serious as the current outbreak of bluetongue by means of a new EU animal health strategy, research funding, compensation for losses, advances on payments, etc.;


Calls on the EU negotiating team at the World Trade Organization talks to reduce the scale of the proposed tariff cuts on sheep-meat and to ensure that the option of sensitive product status for sheep-meat products is available to the EU;


Calls on the Commission to reassess existing import quota management regimes to ensure that EU-produced lamb is not exposed to unfair competition;


Calls on the Commission to introduce a mandatory EU labelling regulation system for sheep-meat products, which would have an EU-wide logo, to allow consumers to distinguish between EU products and those from third countries, which would be underwritten by a number of criteria including a farm assurance scheme and a country of origin indication, to ensure that consumers are fully aware as to the place of origin of the product; considers that the system must be designed in such a way as to avoid undermining existing promotional labelling schemes at Member State and regional level;


Underlines that the most effective and sustainable means of helping the sector lie in developing the market, communicating with consumers, highlighting the nutritional and health benefits of the products concerned and boosting consumption;


Calls on the Commission to increase the current annual EU Food Promotion Budget, which is valued at EUR 45 million for 2008, to ring-fence funding for EU sheep-meat and to change, simplify and streamline the practical rules governing the operation of the budget so that lamb products can be given meaningful access to the budget;


Calls on the Commission and Member States to give a higher profile to the essential role played by sheep farming in terms of contributing to the economy and the sustainability of areas that face the most difficulties and in terms of managing the countryside and, as a priority, to make it easier for young farmers to start up in that sector;


Calls on the Commission to coordinate promotional campaigns for PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) and PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) sheep-meat and goat-meat products, and to target the Member States concerned in order to maximise consumption;


Calls on the Commission to undertake, in general terms and at EU level, a communication campaign targeted at consumers as a whole and backed up by innovative actions (from making different consumer preparations available at the various sales outlets to campaigns spearheaded by celebrated European chefs), stressing the quality of the product and disseminating awareness of its culinary potential;


Calls on the Commission and Member States to initiate programmes to encourage producers to set up producer and marketing groups, engage in direct marketing and to produce and label special qualities of sheep-meat and goat-meat products and ewe-milk and goat-milk products (for example organic products or regional specialities);


Calls on the Commission to provide assistance in opening export markets for EU sheep-meat and offal in countries where unnecessary restrictions currently apply;


Calls on the Commission to include the sheep and goat sector in the ‘second programme of Community action in the field of health (2008-13)’ (4) in order to promote the health and protein benefits of sheep-meat and goat-meat to consumers, particularly to young people, who only consume small amounts of sheep and goat products, and to conduct an active information campaign in the Member States on sheep-meat and goat-meat and products derived therefrom;


Calls on the Commission to support research and development in the ‘small ruminant’ industry, concentrating on both technical innovation for farms and product innovation with regard to lamb, cheese and by-products such as wool and pelts, known as the ‘fifth quarter’, where the financial return is almost negligible at present;


Warns that the occupations of sheep farmer, shepherd, milker and shearer may disappear, and calls on the Commission to include in the strategy for the sector measures relating to communication with the public and exchanges of instructors between teaching centres, as well as mobility programmes between Member States for agricultural instructors and students;


Stresses the need to improve the availability of medicinal and veterinary products for the sheep and goat sectors at a EU level through support for pharmaceutical research and the simplification of marketing authorisations;


Calls on the Commission, bearing in mind, inter alia, bluetongue, to accelerate the pace of research into causes and methods of control when an outbreak of an animal disease occurs, formulate an efficient control strategy, coordinate the measures taken by Member States, promote the development of vaccines, develop an efficient vaccination strategy and provide financial support for the vaccination of livestock; calls for measures taken which are required by law in order to keep an animal disease under control, but which over time have proven to be inefficient, to be deleted from the catalogue of measures as quickly as possible;


Calls on the Commission to bring forward proposals on pricex transparency in the sector in order to provide information to consumers and producers on product prices;


Calls on the Presidency of the Council and the Commission to monitor closely the sheep and goat sectors in the EU and to ensure regular reporting to Parliament on the policy changes that are enacted;


Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and Commission and to the governments and parliaments of the Member States.

(1)  Texts Adopted P6_TA(2007)0619.

(2)  OJ L 270 of 21.10.2003, p. 1. Regulation as last amended by Regulation (EC) No. 470/2008 (OJ L 140, 30.5.2008, p. 1).

(3)  Texts Adopted of 19.2.2008, P6_TA(2008)0054.

(4)  Decision No 1350/2007/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2007 establishing a second programme of Community action in the field of health (2008-13) (OJ L 301, 20.11.2007, p. 3).