9 July 1999

Belgians vent anger over dioxin cash payments

BELGIAN livestock producers staged a demonstration in Brussels this week to demand a better compensation package from their government following the dioxin in animal feed crisis.

The most recent offer includes a budget of BFr3.3bn (£53m) to cover the cost of destroying animals which have been contaminated or which have become unmarketable as a result of the scare.

Affected farms are also entitled to an interest-free loan worth 80% of the replacement value of their stock, repayable over five years. This will cost the Belgian tax payer another BFr3bn (£48m).

The government is also hoping for financial assistance from the EU Commission under its "natural disaster" provisions. But, with the EU already taking legal action against Belgium for its poor handling of the affair, farm commissioner Franz Fischler is in no hurry to open the coffers to help them out.

This weeks protests by farmers, despite being smaller, were considerably more aggressive than previous demonstrations. Violence was directed at journalists covering the event, who the farmers accuse of winding the story up out of all proportion.

Some 395 beef units, 795 pig units and 224 poultry units still face movement restrictions, having fed their animals contaminated feed. &#42