15 June 1999
Ministers debate farm prices, battery cages
By FWi staff
EUROPEAN agriculture ministers meeting in Luxembourg have started
to negotiate next seasons farm price package
The package for 1999/2000 largely amounts to a roll-over of
existing measures except for some minor technical adjustments.
Many of the more thorny issues normally up for discussion have
already been dealt with by the Agenda 2000 reform of the Common
Ministers are likely to formally reach agreement later today
(Tuesday) on the package to fix support prices.
The two-day farm council meeting, chaired by German agriculture
minister Karl-Heinz Funke, is expected to conclude this evening.
It is the last meeting of agriculture ministers before Germany
hands over the European presidency to Finland next month.
Ministers are also due to discuss tighter EU-wide standards for
organic farming and the phasing out of battery cages for chickens.
It is proposed to increase the minimum size of cages for laying
hens and to phase out the most restrictive cages completely after
The measure is being opposed by France but UK agriculture minister
Nick Brown has given it his support so long as the move is
British egg producers say any restrictions on cages should be
accompanied by a ban on imports of eggs from countries with lower
welfare standards outside the EU.
The British Egg Industry Council estimates that converting caged
systems to free range production would cost the industry £687 million.
The UK is responsible for 50% of Europes free range egg production
and 70% of Europes barn egg production.