13 June 1997

Cereal aid was £6bn over top

EU COMMISSION estimates, showing that cereal growers have been over-compensated by more than £6bn, have been released in a bid to cut 1997 area aid.

The figures were presented in Brussels this week to try and convince member states of the need for the cuts, currently proposed at 7.2%.

The alleged over-compensation stretches over a four-year period, from 1993/94 to 1996/97, during which average cereal prices far exceeded those originally predicted in the 1992 MacSharry reforms.

Several member states (Germany, Austria and Spain) immediately disputed the figures. But UK representatives welcomed the findings, even though the figure of £6bn is only half that recently calculated by MAFF.

In an attempt to gain support for area aid cuts, the commission also presented the report to Euro-MPs, meeting in Strasbourg this week. But the response was unsympathetic. The MEPs view is that, since cereal growers have no responsibility for the BSE crisis, they should not suffer cuts in area aid to fund it.n

Amanda Cheesley