Shake-Up of EU Grain Policy Will Boost Exports, Says Trade Group

Article excerpt

Europe's grain trade has given a broad welcome to plans to shake up EU agricultural policy, saying access to international markets will be improved and exports given a much-needed boost.

Coceral, the EU grain trade lobby, said the main thrust of the Agenda 2000 reform proposals - bringing cereals prices down towards world market levels - would free up trade by curbing the need to subsidise exports.

"It is much easier to export without refunds so we are in favour of a price cut to achieve this goal," said the group's secretary general Ms Chantal Fauth.

The European Commission has proposed deep cuts in the EU's internal prices for cereals, beef and dairy products and is offering farmers partial compensation in the form of direct aid. It argues a move away from an agricultural model based on artificially supported prices is necessary for the EU to afford new members from eastern Europe and have a position it can defend in the next round of world trade talks.

EU Farm Ministers will try to clinch a reform deal during what is expected to be a week-long meeting starting on February 22.

That would open the way to a wide-ranging accord on the Agenda 2000 package of farm, aid and budgetary reforms by the end of March, a deadline set by EU leaders last year.

Ms Fauth said Coceral had no official position on how deep the cereals price cut should be - the Commission has proposed a 20 per cent reduction to pounds 65 a tonne.

However, she said ten per cent would not be enough.

Germany has raised a ten per cent cut in high-level talks now going on between member state officials.

But EU diplomats say a majority of countries may accept 20 per cent, with the negotiations now focusing on the level of compensation. …