The EU said Thursday it will extend until next year a multi-million euro aid package to help struggling European farmers hit by Russian sanctions over the Ukraine crisis.
The European Commission, the executive arm of the 28-nation European Union, said it was finalising details after Russian President Vladimir Putin last month extended a ban against most Western food imports for a year, a move in retaliation for EU and US sanctions against Moscow.
Farmers in France, Belgium and Germany have staged protests against falling prices, especially for milk and dairy products, following both the Russian ban and a slowdown in the Chinese market.
"With the ban prolonged, we need to continue to provide a safety net in order to give security to producers who continue to face difficulties in relation to the ban," EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan said in a statement.
The Commission said it could act as early as next week to renew support for fruit and vegetable farmers through to June. The programme has already cost 155 million euros ($170 million).
It added that new relief for the dairy sector would be in place from October, just as the current programme ends, and run through to February.
Putin on June 24 extended a ban against most Western food imports until August 2016, saying the longer-than-expected measure would ensure the country's security.
He took the decision after EU foreign ministers said sanctions against Moscow's banking, oil and defence sectors over its suspected support for rebels in eastern Ukraine would be prolonged until January 2016.
"As a consequence (of the extended Russian ban), existing pressure on milk and dairy product prices is expected to remain in the months to come," the Commission said.
"As for fruit and vegetables, the extension of the Russian ban means that an important export market continues to be unavailable to European producers and this could cause significant price falls," it added.
It said a slowdown in imports from China had also hurt dairy prices.