NZ liable for £285m duty
NEW Zealand dairy producers owe the EU over £285m in unpaid import duty for butter shipped between 1990 and 1996, according to a new report from the European Court of Auditors.
Most of the money (£263m) relates to product which, the court claims, was above the 82% maximum butterfat which qualifies for reduced levy rates. Another £20m concerns spreadable butter, which the court believes is ineligible under New Zealands special import quota.
The court blames Brussels and the UK for relying on NZ import certificates which "failed to honour some of their obligations". It has ordered the commission to recoup the money. However, only £82m is recoverable, the remainder being "out of time".
The New Zealand Dairy Board has reacted angrily to the report and is seeking legal protection. "Import duties on NZ butter and cheese, amounting to $140m last year and similar amounts in previous years, have been paid in full. Nothing is owed to the EU." *