21 November 2001
Ministers fail to reform sheep regime

By Philip Clarke in Brussels

SHEEP producers could face another year of rock-bottom ewe premiums, after European agriculture ministers failed to reform the support regime.

Despite months of preparation, negotiations fell apart on in a row between the council and commission over money late on Tuesday (20 November).

European farm commissioner Franz Fischler warned there may not now be time to implement a deal before the current system expires in six weeks.

In that case he would have no option but to roll over existing arrangements into next year, with ewe premiums determined by market prices.

It is likely that it will be much lower than the premium on offer in the current proposal as sheep prices are relatively high, he said.

Under the original proposal, sheep producers would have received a flat rate of Euro21 (12.90) a head, with a further Euro7 (4.30) in upland areas.

Mr Fischler offered to put in a further Euro1 (61.5p), taking the total payment to Euro22 (13.50) per head.

While more than double this years rate, it fell far short of the Euro30 (18.45) demanded by the European parliament.