17 May 2002

Quality moves for local food

INITIATIVES to encourage farmers to produce better quality food are likely to be included in this summers mid-term review of Agenda 2000.

Presenting the conclusions of a year of "round table discussions" on food and farming in Brussels this week, EU agriculture commissioner Franz Fischler said there was a need for the whole food chain to help farmers develop quality production.

In particular, he suggested changes to the rural development policies – the so-called "second pillar" supports – to give incentives to raise standards.

"There can be no question of taxpayers being asked to pay for quality – were not talking about price supplements," he said. But he could envisage investment grants, to help cover the additional costs of producing better food, and marketing schemes to capitalise on the regional/traditional characteristics of certain foods.

Such measures would be World Trade Organisation-friendly, he added. &#42

Food safety commissioner David Byrne said that, ultimately, it was up to the market to pay for better food. It was therefore essential to improve communication along the food chain. "If we want to raise food standards and consumers to appreciate it, and maybe even spend more money, it is critical they are informed properly."

The establishment of the European Food Safety Authority was a major step forward, he said. The commission also plans to modernise and simplify the rules on labelling, to help consumers make an informed choice.

Both commissioners agreed that food safety was the "bedrock" of all future policy decisions.