29 September 1995

Consumers demand CAPreform

RADICAL reform of the EUs common agricultural policy was demanded by the National Consumer Council yesterday (Sept 28).

The UKs consumer watchdog body said the CAP was an inefficient and ineffective regime which was failing farmers, harming the environment and damaging the economies of developing countries. Consumers were "paying through the nose" for the system, it added.

Its suggested reforms included an end to both support prices and production limits like set-aside and quotas to make farmers more competitive in international markets. Instead, farmers should be given direct payments for social, regional or environmental purposes. These should be decided by member states within EU guidelines.

The average family of four in the UK was still paying nearly £20 a week to fund the CAP through higher food prices or taxation it said in its report.

Since its last CAP report in 1988 there had been the MacSharry reforms and the GATT world trade agreement, but the CAP was still not working for consumers or farmers.

Its net effect over 30 years had been to increase the gap between rich and poor farmers. One estimate put 80% of CAP spending going to only 20% of farms.