25 June 1998
EU probe into cannabis farms

EUROPEAN agriculture ministers are expected to agree to cut public subsidies to hemp growers after reports that some entrepreneurial farmers are claiming millions of pounds in European Union subsidies to cultivate cannabis.

Ministers meeting in Luxembourg are expected to back proposals for a cut of up to 20% in the annual subsidy worth £500 a hectare. They will also agree to more vigilant policing of farms to guard against abuses.

Suspicions in Brussels were raised by a sudden explosion in the area of land given over to the cultivation of hemp, a crop which is legitimately grown to make rope textiles and other textiles.

The area jumped from around 10,000 hectares in 1995 to 40,000 hectares last year, with most of the £10 million in annual subsidies claimed by farmers in Britain, the Netherlands, France and Spain.

Hemp contains a small amount of the active ingredient which gives cannabis its appeal.