1 March 1996

Call for cuts to support

SUBSTANTIAL cuts in grain support prices and/or area aid were called for by UK representatives at this weeks farm council meeting in Brussels.

Deputising for UK minister Douglas Hogg (on voting duty over the Scott inquiry at Westminster), permanent agriculture secretary Richard Packer said cereal farmers across the EU were being over-compensated for price cuts arising from CAP reform. As such, the commissions proposals to leave basic intervention unchanged and cut the monthly increments by just 17p to 94p/t were a "wasted opportunity" when world prices were so high.

But even these limited adjustments were opposed by most other member states, who generally welcomed the lightweight price package. For example, the plan to move all set-aside schemes to a single rate as a starting point for negotiations was welcomed, though the French and Belgians said this should be 15% not 18%.

Proposals for a single bull beef premium were also supported, though Germany and Austria said the payment should be increased by more than the suggested 14%.

The UKs Mr Packer also demanded abolition of the 90-head limit for special beef premium. Member states already had a regional ceiling on the number of claims they can pay on, and it only added to bureaucracy having an individual headage limit, he said.n