20 June 1997

Aid cuts opposed

MOST EU farm ministers are expected to oppose plans to slash arable area aids when they discuss this years price fixing in Luxembourg next week.

The proposals include a freezing of most farm support prices, a 7.2% reduction in cereal area aid and lower monthly increments for grain in intervention.

But most member states represented at this weeks special committee for agriculture (SCA) meeting rejected the last two measures – echoing the view of Euro MPs in Strasbourg.

There is also mounting pressure for the commission to agree next seasons set-aside rate. France, which dominates the export scene, has called for zero set-aside, pointing to commission figures showing current grain stocks at just 2.3m tonnes,.

The "clever money" is on 5%, however, as demanded by UK officials. Commission insiders believe this could be accepted by most member states, but warn decisions are not likely until well into July.n