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Finnish agriculture minister in "Putin’s cheese" stunt at EU meeting, calls for compensation for milk producers

Finnish Agriculture Minister Petteri Orpo showed he meant business in Brussels in Friday by distributing so-called "Putin's cheese" to fellow ministers meeting to discuss possible compensation for producers affected by a Russian food embargo. Finland has called for direct financial support for producers hit by the counter-sanctions.

Juustopakkaus, jossa venäjänkielisiä tekstejä.
Finnish Agriculture and Forestry Minister Petteri Orpo distributed so-called "Putin's cheese" to draw attention to the plight of Finnish dairy producers. Image: Erno Laisi / Yle

EU agriculture ministers met in Brussels Friday to decide whether or not to grant direct financial support to EU food producers affected by Russia’s food embargo. The measure has effectively stonewalled exports of milk, fruit and meat to Russia.

“It’s a matter of a trade war, in which Finnish milk producers are suffering,” said Finnish Agriculture and Forestry Minister Petteri Orpo.

Finland sought to draw attention to its claim by distributing Russian-labeled cheese products that have been blocked from entering Russia because of the embargo.

The EU has already agreed to back the storage of fruit, vegetables and cheese while new export markets are found, but many member states feel more needs to be done.

Apart from Finland, Poland and the Baltic countries also want redress for producers of milk and cheese products, while members from southern Europe want more support for fruit farmers who’ve stood by helplessly while produce has rotted in fields and warehouses.

Largest producers the biggest losers

Financially, the region’s largest producers have been the biggest losers. In the Baltics, Poland and Finland the majority of dairy products are produced for export, causing them to suffer proportionately larger losses.

“Everyone wants the help, but we have good grounds for our claims,” Orpo remarked.

Finland has calculated that milk producers are facing losses of up to 11 million euros for every month the embargo continues. It wants the grouping to find financial support either from crisis funding, its agriculture budget or any other source.

“It’s just a technicality where the money comes from, the main idea is to pass it on directly to producers,” Orpo concluded.

Update: EU agriculture ministers agreed to look into which sectors have been hardest hit by the food embargo. However no decision has been made on granting aid to food producers.

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