9 January 2002
BSE handout for French beef men

By Philip Clarke, Europe editor

FRENCH farm minister Jean Glavany has unveiled a Euro150 million (93m) aid package to help beef producers cope with Frances BSE crisis.

At a meeting in Paris with beef industry representatives on Monday, (7 January), Mr Glavany said the money would be spent in three ways.

About Euro81m would be targeted at the 40,000 French beef farmers most affected by the BSE crisis, he said.

They would receive lump-sum payments of around Euro1000 each by the end of March, with top-ups for those in greatest difficulty.

Another Euro29m would be available under a five-year “social” package, to fund early retirement for the over-55s and retraining for the under-55s.

A third tranche of Euro38m would be spent on enhancing suckler cow production, Mr Glavany said.

Brussels recently granted a three-month extension to the special purchase scheme for over-30-month animals, worth a further Euro24m to France.

After the meeting, French farm leaders attacked the level of aid as “derisory” and said it fell well short of the needs of producers.

Jean-Michel Lemetayer, president of the main French farmers union said the true number of “at risk” farmers was nearer 60,000 rather than 40,000.

The new package is the third time the French government has stepped in to bail out producers amid fears of rising levels of BSE in France.

At the start of the crisis it paid them some Euro352m in cheap loans and social security concessions.

It followed this up last February with Euro137m in interest rate subsidies and suckler cow premium top-ups.

Recent estimates suggest French beef farmers suffered a 9% income fall last year, in contrast to a 1% rise in profitability for agriculture in general.

Other figures show demand for French beef 5% down on pre-crisis levels.