20 September 1996

Yates calls for 1bn ecu super-fund to pay for BSE crisis

By Tony McDougal

IRISH farm minister Ivan Yates has proposed the creation of a 1bn ecu (£834m) super fund to help meet the costs of the BSE crisis.

Speaking after the European farmers union organisation COPA meeting in Dublin, Mr Yates said it was unreasonable to expect the arable sector to finance the one-off crisis.

His comments followed COPAs unanimous rejection of European Commission plans, announced at the end of July, that cereal farmers should bear the brunt of the compensation package through cuts in arable aid and set-aside payments.

Mr Yates said the package would need to be discussed by the EUs 15 leaders and finance ministers, adding that detailed talks could take place at the Dublin Summit at the close of the Irish Presidency in December.

"The existing budget is inadequate to deal with such a crisis. Cash should come from outside the agricultural budget, but it is not for Ireland to decide."

Mr Yates warned delegates that it was unlikely EU beef consumption would ever rise to pre-March 20 levels, but he planned to present a paper at the informal meeting of the Farm Council in Killarney at the weekend (Sept 22-25).

He also said the commission was committed to submitting proposals to the council on the labelling of beef in order to meet consumers concerns. "These proposals are expected in September and we will progress them through the council as rapidly as possible."

Last week, Mr Yates launched the introduction of a computerised labelling system in Ireland, which would allow carcasses to be traced back to their place of origin. The system has been developed by the Superquinn supermarket chain and was prompted by consumer demand.

Mr Yates reiterated Comm-ission concerns that the 400,000t ceiling level for intervention was almost exhausted, saying it was vital its proposals to raise the level was adopted. Currently, it is being held up because the European Parliament has failed to make an opinion on the proposals.

NFU leader Sir David Naish welcomed Mr Yates comments over compensation for the beef sector, likening the BSE crisis to the Chenobyl nuclear explosion.

Sir David welcomed the Comm-issions initiative to introduce an EU-wide calf slaughter scheme and a beef marketing campaign, saying producers could not go on producing beef purely for intervention.

Delegates acknowledged the crisis affecting the industry, but there were disagreements over the running of EU farm commissioner Fischlers beef reforms.

Representatives from Germanys farm union rejected extensification proposals, which would cut the hectarage stocking rate density linked to beef payments. &#42

Ivan Yates… Budget inadequate.