Over the last few years the cereal sector in Sicily has seen a steady, worrying decline in production prices. This cannot be attributed solely to the dynamics of market production and consumption: it is also due in part to the frequent use of foreign grain varieties bought at rock bottom prices which are incompatible with European production costs.
In order to cope with the crisis in the sector, some Sicilian farmers, who are often university graduates who have returned to the countryside, are now investing in the production of ancient Sicilian grain varieties, thereby not only creating new sectors and markets, but also enriching biodiversity.
These young Sicilian farmers have recovered and grown some varieties of Sicilian grain, which is produced organically and ground in stone mills, thereby obtaining flour of the highest quality.
In view of Decision No 283 of the Sicilian Regional Executive of 4 August 2016, can the Commission say:
— Has it received from the competent authorities a declaration of a ‘state of crisis’ in the Sicilian agricultural sector?
— Has it received from the competent authorities a request to promote the genetic varieties of ancient Sicilian grain?
— Does it intend to recognise ancient Sicilian grain varieties and initiate measures to support and promote them?
The Commission is not aware of Decision No 283 of the Sicilian Regional Executive of 4 August 2016 and no declaration of ‘state of crisis’ has been received from the Sicilian authorities.
Regarding the 2014-2020 Rural Development Programme for Sicily, Measure 10 ‘Agri-environment-climate’ includes operation 10.2 ‘Support for conservation and sustainable use and development of genetic resources in agriculture’. The conservation of grains, as other vegetal species, falls under the scope of this operation.
Possible actions that can be financed under this operation include actions promoting in situ and ex situ conservation, characterisation, collection and utilization of genetic resources in agriculture, and actions promoting the exchange and dissemination of information.
The 2014-2020 Rural Development Programme for Sicily foresees under Measure 3, support for new participation in quality schemes and for information and promotion activities. In order to benefit from this support the ancient Sicilian grain varieties should be recognised through a quality scheme as defined in Article 16 of Regulation 1305/2013 on support for rural development by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development. The same kind of aid could also be financed by purely national funds under EU State aid rules.
Finally, the varieties, in order to be marketed, should be registered as conservation varieties according to Commission Directive 2008/62/EC(1).
(1) OJ L 162, 21.6.2008