European Commission approves €50 million Italian subsidised loans scheme to support agriculture, forestry and fishery sectors affected by coronavirus outbreak in Friuli Venezia Giulia region

The European Commission has approved a €50 million Italian scheme to support the agricultural, forestry and fishery sectors in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region in the context of the coronavirus outbreak.The scheme was approved under the State aid Temporary Framework adopted by the Commission on 19 March 2020, as amended on 3 April 2020.

Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “Even in the current situation where essential measures have been put in place to protect our healthcare during the coronavirus outbreak, buying food is a fundamental need of citizens. This Italian regional scheme will enable the provision of loans for all businesses active in the agricultural, forestry and fishery sectors in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region. The measure will help companies cover their immediate liquidity needs and continue their crucial activities in the food chain during these difficult times.”

The Italian regional support measure

Italy notified to the Commission under the amended Temporary Framework a scheme, with an estimated budget of €50 million, to support companies of all sizes active in the agricultural, forestry and fishery sectors in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region, that are facing difficulties due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Under the scheme, support will be granted in the form of loans with favourable interest rates channelled through financial institutions, and in the form of direct grants

The aim of the scheme is to help businesses in these sectors cope with the liquidity issues brought about by the coronavirus crisis by giving them access to the financial means they need to cover their immediate working capital and investment needs, thus ensuring the continuation of their activities.

The Commission found that the Italian regional scheme is in line with the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. In particular:

with respect to the subsidised interest rates for loans, under the scheme:
o subsidised interest on loans can be granted for any duration and at any interest level up to a nominal value of €100,000 per company active in the primary agricultural sector, €120,000 per company active in the fishery and aquaculture sector and €800,000 per company active in the forestry or processing and marketing of agricultural products sector;

o for subsidised loans above these amounts, i) the loans are limited in duration, and ii) the loan amount per company is limited to what is needed to cover its liquidity needs for the near future.

with respect to the direct grants the support will not exceed €100,000 per company active in the primary agricultural sector, €120,000 per company active in the fishery and aquaculture sector and €800,000 per company active in the forestry or processing and marketing of agricultural products sector.
Furthermore, as regards the overall cap of €100,000 per company active in the primary agricultural sector, €120,000 per company active in the fishery and aquaculture sector and €800,000 per company active in the forestry or processing and marketing of agricultural products sector, Italy will ensure that aid granted under the different sub-measures will not exceed these amounts.

The Commission concluded that the measure is necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a Member State, in line with Article 107(3)(b) TFEU and the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework.

On this basis, the Commission approved the measure under EU State aid rules.

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