The European Commission is temporarily allowing European Union (EU) farmers to grow crops on fallow land currently designated as “ecological focus areas” to enhance global food security as food stocks and storages in Ukraine are being destroyed by the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, EU officials have said.

This “exceptional and temporary derogation” aims at increasing the production of crops for food and feed purposes to mitigate the loss of Ukrainian products on the global market, according to Valdis Dombrovskis, Executive Vice President of the European Commission in charge of an economy that works for people. Dombrovskis is also European Commissioner for Trade.

“The EU is an agricultural superpower and we will ensure that our farmers have the Commission’s full support to respond to the global needs for food,” said Janusz Wojciechowski, European Commissioner for Agriculture.

Farmers will be able to grow food or feed on the four million hectares of EU fallow land this year. All technicalities should be cleared within the next seven days to allow EU farmers to use this extra fertile land in time for the spring sowing season, according to Wojciechowski.

To help EU farmers, the derogation is accompanied by a support package worth 500 million euros ($549 million) for European producers most affected by the consequences of the conflict in Ukraine; advances of direct payment in October for 2023; market safety net measures for the pigmeat market; and temporary flexibilities to existing import requirements on animal feed, Xinhua news agency reported.

The loss of Ukrainian agricultural products resulting from the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict could disrupt food supply for lower-income countries in regions such as North Africa and the Middle East, which rely heavily on wheat imports, Dombrovskis said.

Other regions that could be affected by the destruction or loss of Ukrainian agricultural products include Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

The EU is also set to help Ukrainian farmers as much as possible to ensure a successful sowing season, despite the conflict. A short and medium-term food security strategy is being developed by Ukraine with support from the EU to enable the former to feed its citizens and start exporting again.

“Our first priority is to make sure that Ukrainians have enough food, fuel and water. We will also help them to continue planting and growing cereals and oilseeds, much needed for themselves and for the world and facilitate their exports,” Wojciechowski said.

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