* European Commission to launch task force on Monday
* No ministerial meeting planned for now
(Adds detail, background)
BRUSSELS Aug 8 Senior agricultural experts from
all 28 European Union countries will hold an emergency meeting
next Thursday to analyse the impact of a Russian ban on EU food
imports, the European Commission said on Friday.
Moscow banned most food imports from the EU and the United
States on Thursday in retaliation for Western sanctions imposed
over Russia's actions in Ukraine.
The Commission, the EU executive, has already said it
reserves the right to respond and will set up a task force on
Monday to assess the situation.
"In the current context, the most important is to react in a
proportionate and rapid way should the situation arise,"
European Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos said in an
"I am confident that our resilient farm sector will reorient
rapidly towards new markets and opportunities."
Roughly 10 percent of EU agricultural exports go to Russia
annually and their total value is around 11 billion euros (14.73
billion US dollar), Commission figures show.
To ensure a smooth transition to other markets, the
Commission says the bloc's Common Agricultural Policy provides
options for financial support, including a crisis reserve to
compensate farmers if necessary.
Ciolos said he had already spoken to farm ministers from
across Europe, including Italy's. Rome now holds the rotating EU
presidency until the end of the year.
A spokesman for the Italian presidency said there were no
plans for now to summon an emergency meeting of agricultural
ministers. Next Thursday's emergency meeting will be attended by
national experts as well as Commission officials, he said.
Poland said on Friday it would file a complaint to the World
Trade Organization over the Russian embargo and the Commission
has also gone to the WTO over a ban by Moscow on EU pork.
However, when asked about wider WTO action, the Commission
said only that it was assessing the situation.
EU lawyers in Brussels said the EU executive was likely to
act cautiously because its concern now was to de-escalate the
crisis when further WTO action could have the opposite effect.
Russia is a major buyer of European fruit and vegetables but
ranks 23rd among buyers of food from the United States,
accounting for less than 1 percent of America's farm exports.
The White House said the ban would backfire, hurting Russian
citizens by pushing up inflation.
(1 US dollar = 0.7468 euro)
(Reporting by Martin Santa, Barbara Lewis and Julia Fioretti;
Editing by Gareth Jones)