Organic imports, partial reversal at MiPAAF. #CleanSpades

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The MiPAAF-which at Coldiretti’s behest had tried to impose a regime of extraordinary controls on organic imports, contrary to EU rules-was finally forced to make a partial reversal.

Yet another bad figure of a heterodirected, indeed ‘Coldirected’, dicastery that in a few weeks has caused an unprecedented diplomatic crisis with its trading partners from the Swiss Alps to the Andes. But the matter is not yet resolved. #CleanSpades.

Organic imports, the MiPAAF decree of shame

The MiPAAF decree 24.2.21, as has been denounced by many, would unnecessarily put all the Made in Italy supply chains that process bananas, soybeans, cocoa, coffee, tea and other organic raw materials not even available in the beautiful country. (1) By establishing a protectionist regime that would have forced the implementation of enhanced controls at customs, with multi-residual analysis on individual consignments. Based on risks defined a priori and ‘at the drop of a hat,’ contrary to both the criteria established in the EU and the agreements established with some trading partners.

The consequences of such a measure would have been very serious. In addition to diverting the Customs Agency from its priority control activities-without, of course, agreeing to increase the resources available to it-the DM 24.2.21 would have penalized Italian importers and ports compared to those of other member states, causing relocations and job losses in the logistics, processing and related induced sectors as well. With inevitable repercussions on the competitiveness of Italian companies and consumer prices of organic food.

Diplomatic crisis

It is unknown whether the European Commission, at least for once, has enjoined the Italian government to repeal yet another measure that blatantly contravenes European law. This would be good news, given the damage to Italian operators already caused by regulations contrary to EU rules. Two cases out of all, the a priori imposed expiration date on fresh milk (the cause of returns and food waste) and the establishment location on the label. Both cases ignored by both Brussels and theOmbudsman, (2,3) only the second resolved by the Rome Tribunal. (4)

What is certain, however, is that DM 24.2.21 triggered an immediate reaction from the diplomacies of a number of non-EU countries, including Switzerland, Egypt, Tunisia, and Ecuador. And the lesson offered on 1.4.21 by the Embassy of Peru in Italy to the MiPAAF and the MAE (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) is exemplary. A dutiful reminder of existing law among World Trade Organization member countries that, at least in this case, serves to protect the rights of farmers and the value of agroecology. Rights proclaimed by the UN (2018), which FAO also urged to implement (2019) and MiPAAF ‘Coldiretto’ continues to ignore (5,6,7).

International law and civilization, Andean lecture

The aforementioned legislation (…) would not have been, as a preliminary matter, submitted through the established World Trade Organization (WTO) mechanisms. (…)

The aforementioned decree disfavors the development of organic production called for by the European Union’s ‘Green Pact’ [Green Deal, ed.] and ‘Farm to Table’[Farm to Fork, ed.] strategy, and the natural cooperation that should exist bilaterally, also undermining multiple small producer organizations, which are making great efforts to keep international supplies of food products, such as quinoa, coffee, or cocoa, among others, under strict production and export controls‘ (Peru Embassy letter to MiPAAF and MFA, 1.4.21. See Annex).

Organic imports, debate at MiPAAF

On 8.4.21 , MiPAAF officials delegated to handle the hot dossier on organic imports thus had to hold an online conference of the ‘Joint Technical Table on Organic Farming’. And the 30 or so participating associations-representing the operators in Italy of the organic supply chain, as well as the agricultural and industrial sectors-were able to discuss the critical issues of the DM 24.2.21. MiPAAF executive Roberta Cafiero, herself, agreed ‘that the risk analysis prepared by Italy should be forwarded to the European Commission.’ (8)

The only voice lined up in favor of the decree published in the Official Gazette, ça va sans dir, is that of Coldiretti. Its executive Francesco Giardina noted that ”the decree is in line with national regulations on organic farming, which are generally more restrictive than the implementing regulations in other European countries.‘ Highlighting that ‘Italian producers are particularly affected by the massive market presence of cheap imported organic product from third countries‘. An autarkic rhetoric reminiscent of that of the tragic two decades of the last century, with all due respect for law and civilization invoked from Switzerland to the Andes.

MiPAAF, partial reversal

The diplomatic crisis has evidently forced Francesco Saverio Abate – Head of the Department of Competitive Policies, Agri-food Quality, Equestrian and Fisheries, at MiPAAF – to partially backtrack from Coldiretti’s orders. On 13.5.21 the participants in the Technical Table were informed as follows ‘that a Ministerial Decree is being published in the Official Gazette to repeal and replace Ministerial Decree 91718/2021, which suspends the application of the provisions relating to mandatory sampling to be carried out on imported consignments, referred to in paragraph (b) of Annex 2‘.

However, there remain some critical issues that especially affect SMEs. That is, the obligation to undergo two annual inspections for anyone who, in 2019, carried out at least five import transactions (even of only a few kilograms of goods), or imported even a single consignment > 1 t (where an Apecar has the capacity of 0.7 t), meaning that it imports both organic and conventional product. Three checks per year in cases of recurrence of two of these factors. A tax on organic imports-between about €500 and €1,500/year-that can affect even an artisan producer of Modica IGP chocolate.

Fair Trade?

‘I can’t stop thinking about the thousands of farmers who have been working with Italian import companies for years on Fairtrade and organic certified products. They have invested so much to build solid and reliable supply chains, to give us a great quality product, today they are reliable and long-standing trading partners, and this legislation, while designed for other origins, penalizes them greatly.

This decree also penalizes Italian companies that import and process their products, historical Fairtrade partners such as Alce Nero, OrganicSur who have worked so hard and continue to work hard to offer Italian consumers good and sustainable products!

In order to ‘protect’ Italian products, raw materials that are not grown here are penalized, not to mention that this legislation highlights non-conformities with European regulations on the movement of goods.

We have reported this nonsense to Mipaaf, but we have not yet received a response: Minister Patuanelli, what are we waiting for?‘ (Paolo Pastore, executive director of Fairtrade Italy)

#CleanSpades

The Council of Ministers has just reappointed to the Ministry of Agriculture three department heads who have long held top positions at 20 Via XX Settembre. (9) And MiPAAF has suffered from dangerous interference for too long, as this and other events show.

As Europe relaxes import controls on the generality of composite products (with processed ingredients of animal origin, e.g., cookies, ice cream, sauces with egg products and dairy products, etc. See footnote 10), the MiPAAF ‘Coldiretto’ now pounces on Fairtrade bananas and coffee with unconstitutional regulations. (1)

Stefano Patuanelli, it’s time to turn over a new leaf. Enforce accountability for violations of the law, halt conflicts of interest (one above all, the director of AGEA. See footnote 11), strictly guard public jaunts. (12) #CleanSpades.

Dario Dongo

Notes

(1) Dario Dongo. Import of organic products from third countries, DM 24.2.21 and EU rules. GIFT(Great Italian Food Trade). 25.3.21, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/mercati/importazione-prodotti-biologici-da-paesi-terzi-dm-24-2-21-e-regole-ue

(2) Dario Dongo. Food waste, our battle over fresh milk. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 7/24/19, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/consum-attori/sprechi-alimentari-la-nostra-battaglia-sul-latte-fresco

(3) Dario Dongo. Farm to fork, meat and dairy industries’ appeal to the European Commission. GIFT(Great Italian Food Trade). 5.3.20, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/mercati/farm-to-fork-appello-delle-industrie-di-carni-e-latticini-alla-commissione-europea

(4) Dario Dongo, Francesca Agostini. Establishment location and origin decrees, possible damages actions. FARE(Food and Agriculture Requirements). 20.1.19, https://www.foodagriculturerequirements.com/archivio-notizie/sede-stabilimento-e-decreti-origine-possibili-azioni-di-risarcimento-danni

(5) Dario Dongo. Farmers’ rights, UN Declaration. GIFT(Great Italian Food Trade). 11/23/08, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/progresso/diritti-dei-contadini-dichiarazione-onu

(6) Dario Dongo, Camilla Fincardi. Agroecology, SDGs, salvation. FAO’s decalogue. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 12.4.20, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/progresso/agroecologia-sdgs-salvezza-il-decalogo-della-fao

(7) Dario Dongo, Giulia Caddeo. People’s campaign for peasant agriculture, waiting for the law. GIFT(Great Italian Food Trade). 6.9.19, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/idee/campagna-popolare-per-l-agricoltura-contadina-in-attesa-della-legge

(8) Organic: tightening of import controls from third countries. The Coldiretti point. 27.2.21, %E2%

(9) Mipaaf, Cdm resolves to confirm Abate, Assenza and Blasi as department heads. Agriculture.eu. 5/13/21, https://www.agricolae.eu/mipaaf-cdm-delibera-conferma-abate-assenza-e-blasi-capi-dipartimento/

(10) Reg. EU 2021/630

(11) Dario Dongo. AGEA – Coldiretti, European Commission rejects conflict of interest. GIFT(Great Italian Food Trade). 3/24/21, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/progresso/agea-coldiretti-la-commissione-europea-boccia-il-conflitto-d-interessi

(12) Dario Dongo. Livestock system and biodiversity, public disbandment. #CleanSpades. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 3/31/21, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/mercati/sistema-allevamento-e-biodiversità-sbando-pubblico-vanghepulite

ANNEX

Letter Embassy of Peru to MiPAAF – Department of Competitive Policies, Agribusiness Quality, Equestrian and Fisheries – and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, 1.4.21