18 July 2000
Flax growers face area aid cut
By Philip Clarke
FLAX and hemp growers face a substantial cut in their area aid payments next season, after European agriculture ministers voted to reform the regime.
Changes decided in Brussels late on Monday (17 May) will see the annual support budget cut from the current 158 million to about 56m (35m at time of writing).
The deal, which shifts payments towards processors rather than growers, was welcomed by European farm commissioner, Franz Fischler.
He said the revised scheme would put an end to so-called “premium hunting” by farmers simply growing the crop to claim “excessive” aid payments.
“This reflects the new commercial reality,” said Mr Fischler.
Area aid will be realigned with the linseed rate for next year at 445/ha, compared with last seasons 709/ha for flax and 663/ha for hemp.
From 2002/03 the rate will be the same as for all arable crops, at just 371/ha.
On top of this, processors will be paid a supplementary aid, with the intention that some of this will be passed back to growers in the form of higher prices.
For long-fibre flax this will start at 100 euros/t next season, climbing to 200/t by 2006. For short-fibre flax and hemp, as mainly cultivated in Britain, the rate will be 90/t.
A new system of maximum guaranteed quantities is also being introduced, limiting the UK to 12,150t at the full rate of processing aid.
The National Farmers Union said the deal was better than that originally proposed by the European Commission.
That would have paid just 40/t processing aid instead of the 90/t finally agreed, said the unions Stuart Thompson.