Moldova will be able to export up to 40,000 tonnes of fresh apples, 10,000 tonnes of fresh table grapes and 10,000 tonnes of fresh plums to the EU duty free, thanks to a proposal backed by MEPs on Wednesday. This should compensate Moldova's producers for their losses due to Russia’s politically-motivated ban on imports of Moldovan produce.

Moldova will be able to import duty-free

  • 40,000 tons of fresh apples (= 0.4% of EU output)

  • 10,000 tons fresh table grapes (= 0.6% of EU output)

  • 10, 000 tonnes fresh plums (= 0.7% of EU output)

Most of these imports are likely to go to Romania.

MEPs approved the concession by 551 votes to 67, with 23 abstentions.

"The importance of the regulation approved today goes far beyond some quantities of apples, grapes and plums. It serves as a demonstration of solidarity in the face of hardship: it is a breath of fresh air for a sector of vital importance to the Moldovan economy, which is affected by an irrational Russian ban, just like the EU itself", said rapporteur Sorin Moisa (S&D, RO) after the vote.

EU trade preferences for Moldova

Although 90% of all imports from Moldova have entered the EU duty free since 2008, under its “autonomous trade preferences” regulation, fresh fruit is part of the 10% that do not. However, Moldovan wine was added to the duty-free import list in 2013, with the European Parliament’s approval.

Russia imposed an import ban on Moldovan farm produce on 21 July 2014, as a political response to the EU’s deepening economic and political ties with Moldova. This hurt Moldova’s economy, because Russia is its second largest trade partner (after the EU) and horticulture employs about 10% of the active population.

The European Commission proposed the fruit import concession in response to an urgent appeal from Moldova for EU support. This measure comes on top of trade preferences granted to Moldova as part of the “deep and comprehensive free trade area” with the EU, established by the EU-Moldova association agreement, which the European Parliament ratified last month.

Very limited impact on the EU market

The duty-free quotas for the three products concerned are "very limited in volume" compared to EU production (0.4% for apples, 0.7% for plums and 0.6% table grapes), said Mr Moisa.

He also stressed that the additional imports of the three products will probably be absorbed by the Romanian market, "due to its cultural and geographical proximity, as well as the present market situation", with Romanian fruit production decreasing in volume accordingly.

Imports from Moldova accounted for 0.1% of the EU total in 2013.

Next steps

The duty-free import quota, which still needs to be formally approved by the EU Council of Ministers, is to apply retroactively from August 2014 and expire at the end of 2015.