The Royal Decree 463/2020, by which the state of alarm is declared for the management of the situation caused by COVID-19, establishes that the competent delegated authorities will adopt the necessary measures to guarantee the food supply.
Agricultural, livestock and aquaculture production, as well as fishing activity, transformation of agricultural and fishery products, veterinary centers or clinics, transport and distribution of food, as well as its commercialization through retail sales to consumers, form the food supply chain whose activity must be guaranteed in the state of alarm.
This implies that the activity of agri-food companies as a whole, including agricultural, livestock, aquaculture and fishing activities, must be maintained, but also that of the companies that, in turn, supply them with the necessary inputs for their operation. .
In the case of farmers, ranchers, aquaculturists and fishermen, they must be able to continue carrying out the necessary tasks to guarantee the maintenance of the activity.
In any case, in order to prevent and contain the spread of the virus, the tasks whose performance is not essential to carry out during the duration of the alarm state period, should be limited or suspended, such as accessory maintenance tasks.
During these days, numerous doubts or requests for clarification have been received in relation to the application of the state of alarm in the agricultural and fishing sector, which can be grouped into the following sections.
1. Posting of workers in vehicles
Royal Decree 463/2020 establishes the limitation of the freedom of movement of people, excepting, among other activities, moving to the workplace to carry out work, professional or business provision. It also provides for the free movement of private vehicles on the roads for public use to carry out such activity, respecting the recommendations and obligations issued by the health authorities.
There are many queries received about how to move in vehicles towards agricultural or livestock farms, towards fishing ports or towards agri-food industries.
In this sense, it should be clarified that, according to article 3.3 of the Order TMA / 254/2020, of March 18, which gives instructions on road and air transport, vans can be used to transport workers to the field and to transport sailors and workers from fishing vessels to ports, provided that they do not occupy more than a third of the available seats of the maximum occupation of the vehicle and keeping the security measures dictated by Health.
In this way, two workers (the driver and another passenger who will travel behind the passenger seat) will be able to travel together in a car, and three in a van with capacity for nine people. The necessary precautionary measures must be taken to maintain an appropriate safety distance between the occupants inside it. In any case, the row after the seat occupied by the driver will always be kept empty.
There have also been numerous inquiries on how to prove that a worker, a professional or the farmer, rancher or fisherman himself, move to their workplace.
There is no obligation for a particular accreditation for this situation, however, some organizations or entities, on a voluntary basis, are providing models for their associates that may be useful to facilitate the justification of the displacement in case it is required by the authority. competent.
In any case, displacements are allowed as long as the farmer, rancher, fisherman, professional or worker goes to carry out their work in the terms described at the beginning of this note. Likewise, the owners of agricultural, livestock and fishing vessels must strictly comply with the protocols of the health authorities for the prevention and protection against COVID-19 in their workplaces, having the means and the necessary organizational measures for them and for your workers.
2. Opening of the retail trade for the sale of inputs for agriculture, livestock and fishing
The agricultural, livestock, aquaculture or fishing activity requires the use of inputs for its proper performance, such as the use of fertilizers, phytosanitary products, seeds and seedlings, veterinary products, feed, salt, ice, accoutrements, etc. For this, the activity of the retail trade that supplies this type of supplies has continuity, since they are essential activities to ensure primary production and, with it, the food supply to citizens.
Sometimes this retail trade is provided by the agricultural cooperatives themselves, fishermen's guilds, fish markets or ports, which must be able to continue providing this service. Also sometimes, these products are sold in establishments that sell other types of products. In this case, the activity will be limited to that necessary for the sale of inputs to farmers, ranchers, aquaculturists and fishermen.
3. Suspension of deadlines in administrative procedures related to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the fishing sector
In general, the entry into force of Royal Decree 463/2020, supposes the interruption of all deadlines for processing administrative procedures related to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and to the fishing sector.
In this context, non-compliance with deadlines for causes not attributable to the interested parties may be considered as a cause of force majeure.
3.1. In the specific case of the procedures linked to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
Regarding direct aid received by farmers and ranchers, whose application period runs from February 1 to April 30, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food appreciates the decision of the European Commission to extend the application deadline until June 15. The Commission has confirmed to Spain that the processing of an Implementing Regulation will shortly begin to carry out this extension. In any case, in collaboration with the autonomous communities, the electronic submission of aid applications will be facilitated so that the maximum number of applications through electronic means can continue to be registered, while the state of alarm lasts.
For the set of aid schemes and administrative procedures linked to the application of the CAP in Spain, it will be reviewed to facilitate compliance with the commitments of all beneficiaries who are affected by the application of the state of alarm, having This exceptional state will be considered as a cause of force majeure and will request the European Commission to make any urgent regulatory changes that may be necessary.
3.2. In relation to the deadlines related to sanctioning proceedings in the fishing sector.
In the case of infractions for which no file has been initiated, the statutes of limitations for the infractions are suspended, although provisional measures can be adopted.
In the case of initiated files, their processing is suspended, as well as the expiration periods and for the completion of any type of procedure, except for those strictly necessary management and instruction measures that can be adopted for the purposes to avoid serious damage to the rights and interests of the interested parties, always with their agreement.
4. Rules for fishing vessels, in coordination with the Social Institute of the Navy (ISM). Operational recommendations.
Ships are a critical part of the food supply chain, therefore their operation and operability must be guaranteed. The people who are part of the crew must respect and apply these recommendations at all points. The personal and social responsibility of all the crew members is essential to minimize risks and avoid contagion.
If no one of the crew is affected by the disease, the ship is a space that offers isolation with third parties and must be kept as long as possible by lengthening the tides as long as possible, provided that safety at sea allows it, avoiding entering the port until sufficient catches are available for a significant degree of occupation of the holds or the quality of the catches may be affected. Self-protection measures must be determined in each case by the skipper of the ship depending on the circumstances and may adopt, even if necessary, the disembarkation of the crew between tides to avoid contagion.
4.1 Fleet of Height and Great Height
If there are not enough catches, as indicated in the previous point, it is recommended not to return to port and remain at sea until completing the quota indicated.
4.2. Fleet that operates in national fishing grounds waters
Its own activity determines that its operations involve tides with port entry every day. To this type of fleet it is recommended that its crew members take hygiene measures and follow the recommendations that the Ministry of Health will determine in the future.
Specific rules will be disclosed in relation to access control and prior to boarding, the organization and cleaning of the ship and the way to act in case of suspicion or confirmation of a positive by coronavirus.