10 November 1995

Losing ground in grain shares

By Amanda Cheesley

SUBSTANTIAL European shares of the world grain market could be lost to competitors such as growers in North America if policies are not changed.

The prediction comes from European Commission representative Jose Manuel Silva Rodriguez. Speaking on Wednesday at the Agra Europe conference in Brussels on world grain trade, he listed a number of factors that could push European farmers into a competitive corner.

He said the EU is constrained by limits on subsidised exports. It also gave high priority to keeping low grain prices on the domestic market.

A current weakness was that EU grain stocks are low, he said. This makes it even more difficult to manage the market by releasing stocks when needed.

"The only real management tool is set-aside, but that has no direct impact for at least a year," he claimed.

By contrast, the US is considered to be in a much better trading position, particularly if the 1995 Farm Bill is passed. The conference agreed that the "bright hope of the global grain business" is south-east Asia. Wheat imports to the region are expected to double and coarse grains to treble by the turn of the century. &#42