Fischler rejects older cattle purchase calls
FARM commissioner, Franz Fischler, has rejected calls for an extension to the EUs special purchase scheme for untested older cattle, even though European beef prices continue to suffer from the effects of BSE.
Presenting his first round-up to farm ministers since before the summer, Dr Fischler claimed beef markets were enjoying a "slow, but steady, recovery". Consumption was just 5.7% down on year-ago levels, compared with the 27% drop at the start of this year and 10% seen in July.
"On the export side there is also a promising development," he added. "The Egyptian authorities are now prepared to examine requests from individual member states for a derogation from their import ban." Overall, exports are at about 11,000t/week, compared with 14,000t before the BSE crisis, with 77% going to Russia and 7% to Lebanon.
But EU beef prices are still suffering. Cull cow prices across the EU are over 30% down on pre-BSE crisis levels, compared with 24% in June. And steers are almost 10% down compared with just 2% in June.
The commissions various buy-up schemes have played an important role in relieving the market of surplus beef. About 240,000t went under the old purchase for destruction scheme, while 89,000t is held under the special purchase scheme and 242,000t is in intervention.
Combined with an estimated 185,000t destroyed due to foot-and-mouth and BSE culling, the commission suggests 756,000t has been removed from the EU market this year – about 10% of total production.
But Dr Fischler rejected requests from some ministers to prolong the special purchase scheme, which is due to expire at the end of the year.
"I am not convinced that the market situation in 2002 will justify a prolongation of this exceptional market support measure." *