By FWi staff
GRAIN production is set to plummet next season after EU farm ministers doubled the set-aside rate to 10%.
European farm ministers last week agreed to the EU Commissions proposal to increase set-aside rates from 5% as of this coming autumn.
As a result, UK grain production during 1998/99 could fall by 1 million tonnes, according to the Home-Grown Cereals Association (HGCA).
The new set-aside rate will take an additional 200,000 hectares of land from cereal production, HGCA analysts have calculated.
The move has drawn sharp criticism from farmers leaders. The NFU maintains the increase in set-aside is out of step with the commissions Agenda 2000 objectives to reform the Common Agricultural Policy.
“We are rapidly moving towards a free marketplace when set-aside rates will no longer apply,” said NFU president Ben Gill. “The NFU believes we should be moving towards this situation, rather than regressing with a higher [set-aside] rate.”