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Minister assures public there is enough food for months

Ljubljana, 20 March - Agriculture Minister Aleksandra Pivec assured the public that there is enough basic foodstuffs in Slovenia for a few months, assuaging fears that the country might run out of food as the measures are imposed world-wide to contain the spread of the new coronavirus. Food producers also said that operations ran without disruption for the time being.

Ljubljana
Agriculture, Forestry and Food Minister Aleksandra Pivec speaks to the press about the food situation in Slovenia as the country is taking measures to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.
Photo: Nebojša Tejić/STA

Ljubljana
Agriculture, Forestry and Food Minister Aleksandra Pivec speaks to the press about the food situation in Slovenia as the country is taking measures to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.
Photo: Nebojša Tejić/STA

Ljubljana
Agriculture, Forestry and Food Minister Aleksandra Pivec speaks to the press about the food situation in Slovenia as the country is taking measures to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.
Photo: Nebojša Tejić/STA

Pivec, who is also in charge of food, told the press on Friday that the situation was constantly monitored, and that backup plans were in place in case of disruption in the food supply channels.

Procedures have also been launched to supply products from other countries, if necessary, the minister said, adding that problems could first start in the supply of fresh fruit, such as citrus and tropical fruit, and certain vegetables.

Italy is a major supplier of these products to Slovenia and, if the supply of goods from there gets disrupted, Hungary could serve as a backup for the supply of fruit and vegetables.

Pivec also summarised the government measures in agriculture, including the option that a temporary manager of a farm is appointed if the owners or workers at the farm are incapacitated due to coronavirus.

The temporary manager would have the same rights and obligations as the owner, including the right to monthly pay, but will not hold the ownership right. Farm management and sales need to be conducted with the owner's consent.

No measures to prevent potential dumping have been adopted, but Pivec said that it was possible to restrict or ban the sale of a certain groups of products, individual products, foodstuffs or animals to other EU member states or third countries.

The minister added that the decree on the conditions for the entry to Slovenia from Italy did not apply to owners whose land used for agricultural work laid on both sides of the border.

Pivec noted that the good news was that the European Commission had approved an increase in de minimis aid to companies in the fisheries from EUR 15,000 to EUR 120,000 and in agriculture from EUR 20,000 to 100,000.

The ministry has also stepped up the promotion of Slovenian products and established a 24/7 call centre for questions related to the access to food.

Pivec stressed that the sale of food at produce markets and farms had not been prohibited, and that the ministry was in talks with the Economy Ministry about the possibility to re-open shops with pet food.

For the time being, there are no indications that the country may run out of pesticides, she added.

Companies in the food production and processing industry are coping with the increased demand, with production being either increased or reduced in different segments due to the changed circumstances.

The country's largest bread and pasta maker Žito said that the operations ran without disruptions, with employees regularly coming to work in production plants, bakeries and shops.

Demand for basic and durable foodstuffs, such as flour, pasta, rice, yeast, cornmeal and canned and baby food, has increased, but this is not problematic for the time being, the company added.

The dairy Mlekarna Celeia said that milk continued to be purchased from more than 900 Slovenian farms, with the daily quantity reaching 270,000 litres.

"In recent days we have noticed an increase in orders of fresh and long-life milk, cheese and yoghurt in large packages, and we have adjusted the production to the situation," director Vinko But said.

The company currently supplies around 1,000 outlets in the country, and the production and delivery of products is not disrupted despite the strict safety measures, the company added in a press release.

The Pekarna Grosuplje bakery has meanwhile reduced the workload in production for safety reasons, but said that the supply was not a problem because the raw material used was mostly of Slovenian origin.

zm/ep
© STA, 2020