Planas asks the European Commission for an exception in the collection of POSEI aid for producers on La Palma

News - 27.10.2021

Luis Planas has asked the European Commission to apply an exception to the farmers of La Palma so that they can receive aid from the EU Support Programme for Agricultural Production in the Canary Islands (POSEI), linked to marketing, during the time when they are unable to produce or sell their products as a result of the eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano.

The minister, together with the president of the Canary Islands, Ángel Víctor Torres, and the Canary Islands minister for the sector, Alicia Vanoostende, held meetings in Santa Cruz de La Palma with representatives of the agricultural and fishing sector, to whom he insisted that the Government "will do whatever is necessary" to help repair the damage and restore normality to the island.

With regard to the exception already requested by letter yesterday to the European Union (EU) Commissioner for Agriculture, Janusz Wojciechowski, Spain has asked for its inclusion on the agenda of the EU Council of Agriculture Ministers on 15 and 16 November and the support of the other Member States for this request.

In the letter, the minister remarked that, given the seriousness and exceptionality of the circumstances, the European Commission is exploring "how we can use the POSEI aid, making the necessary legal modifications, to support the affected farmers until they can recover their normal activity". He hoped that this matter, due to the fact that it is a case of "force majeure and absolutely exceptional", would be recognised for 2021.

Banana cultivation is the sector most affected by the volcano's eruption, and is also the main recipient of POSEI aid, which amounts to around 270 million euros per year for the islands as a whole, to which the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will add a further 18 million euros from its budget by 2022.

La Palma is one of the main banana-producing areas, with some 145,000 tonnes per year. In addition to the plantations that have been directly damaged by the lava, most of the production is affected by the ash or by the impossibility of irrigating and, in case they are able to maintain irrigation, it is to keep the plant alive, but it does not allow production.

Luis Planas - who arrived in La Palma on Tuesday afternoon and toured the areas affected by the volcano's lava together with the Canary Islands president - highlighted the "strength and courage" with which the people of La Palma are facing such a difficult situation. "You have to be here to see the suffering", he said, and explained that the constant presence of members of the Government symbolises that the Government is committed to La Palma. "The Government intends to bring support, care, solidarity, and practical solutions," he said.

In the meetings held today, he gave more details to the representatives of the agricultural and fishing sectors about the aid made available by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAPA) and stressed that the 20.8 million euros budgeted is an initial amount, "for a first response", and that it is not a final budget.

For example, in the case of fisheries, the 500,000 euros of direct aid corresponds to compensation for two months of fleet stoppage, which will presumably have to be extended. Planas stressed the importance of small-scale fishing in the area and explained that the ministry is monitoring the effects on the seabed under the new delta formed by the lava. The usual scientific work of the Marine Reserve of Fishing Interest of La Palma has been reinforced with state-of-the-art equipment and technical means.

Processing to speed up payments

The minister said that the ministerial orders are currently being finalised and that he is confident that in November the first funds can be transferred to the Canary Islands Government, which will manage the aid. In this succession of procedures to speed up payments, he recalled that yesterday the Council of Ministers authorised a credit of 6.8 million euros from the contingency fund to MAPA. Another transfer of the contingency fund to the Ministry of Labour and Social Economy was also agreed upon to support self-employed people and employment promotion programmes in La Palma, from which the agricultural and fishing sectors can benefit.

The situation is unmanageable and as long as the volcano continues to erupt and emit lava it is impossible to make an objective estimate of the damage. Planas reassured farmers, stockbreeders and fishermen that the aid budget "will be increased if it has to be increased". He stressed that the Government is firmly committed to the people of La Palma in view of the seriousness of the situation and that it will do whatever is necessary to deal with the situation.

On the other hand, the minister and the president of the Canary Islands also attended the meeting of the Joint Committee for the Reconstruction, Recovery and Support of La Palma, which was chaired by the President of the Government of Spain, Pedro Sánchez, in Santa Cruz de La Palma via video-conference. Planas stressed the importance of thinking about the day after. "We have to ensure that the problem is not one of money, that the damage can be repaired, rebuilt and that La Palma has a future," he said.

Planas also announced that among the support initiatives, the ministry will carry out a specific promotion campaign for La Palma's agricultural and fishery products within the Food from Spain strategy.

The MAPA aid package included in the Royal Decree-Law on support measures for La Palma approved by the Council of Ministers on 5 October for a total of 20.8 million euros includes 14 million euros in direct compensation for farmers and livestock owners affected by the volcano's eruption, 500,000 euros for ship owners and fishermen to compensate for the shutdown of the fleet, and 4.3 million euros for the restoration of common infrastructure such as roads and irrigation facilities. For the fishing sector, 500,000 euros in compensation to shipowners and fishermen for the shutdown of the fleet for two months is envisaged.

In addition, two million euros is earmarked to subsidise the financing of guarantees for loans requested by owners of agricultural and livestock farms, fishing boat owners and SMEs, which will be implemented through the Sociedad Anónima Estatal de Caución Agraria (SAECA), and reductions will be made available in the rates of income tax (IRPF).

Non official translation