22 October 1999

EU says it will compensate for area aid drop

ARABLE area aid notifications sent out by MAFF this week have left many growers feeling short-changed.

Rather than the expected 1998 level of aid, the notices state that arable farmers will receive about 14% less (ignoring minor adjustments for base area overshoots). For example, English cereal growers will be paid £206.10/ha (£83.40/acre), rather than the £239.45/ha (£96.94/acre) they expected.

But MAFF has not told growers that there is more to come. The first cheque now going out is based on the average exchange rate last June, when k1 was worth just over 65p.

That is 14% below the figure used to calculate last years rate, hence the difference. But Brussels has agreed to compensate growers for this.

"The reason we have been so vague is that we have still not had confirmation from Brussels on this," says a MAFF spokeswoman.

But she admits that officials say a second cheque, due to be paid from February next year, will be worth just over £33/ha (£13/acre).

The Scottish Executive began paying the first instalment last Monday, the earliest date permitted by the EU. Officials predicted that more than 60% of Scotlands arable farmers would receive their cheque this week. Mailing of cheques will start in England next Monday (Oct 25). &#42