Amadeusz Juskowiak

Ec ministers bid to save dairy accord

European Community EC farm ministers were fighting hard early today to prevent a deal on cutting overflowing milk production from turning sour before trying to agree widescale reforms in other surplus sectors

Meanwhile protests from angry European farmers over successive attempts to scale down unwanted Community food production appeared to be gathering strength

In the northeastern Spanish city of Saragossa thousands of Spanish farmers battled with police during a march to demand a better deal from Brussels

The farmers traded stones for tear gas and rubber pellets and occupied local government buildings while in the southern city of Malaga citrus growers dumped more 20 tonnes of lemons on the streets in protest at EC duties

Towards the end of last week about 10000 angry West German farmers marched through the streets of Hanover burning effigies of Agriculture Minister Ignaz Kiechle while in France pigfarmers barricaded roads in protest at falling prices

Europes 12 mln farmers are furious over plans by the European Commission to cut subsidised prices and severely limit farmers automatic right to sell unwanted food into public stores at high guaranteed EC prices

In the toughestever proposals for the annual price review at which EC ministers set the levels of subsidies Agriculture Commissioner Frans Andriessen has included measures that could result in price cuts for some products of up to 11 pct

The plans form part of an ongoing campaign to reform surpluscreating farm policies that have become a political embarrassment at home and commercial flashpoint abroad and threatened to leave the Community with no cash for other areas

Andriessens latest package comes only months after a decision to cut dairy production by 95 pct over two years and to slash beef prices by around 10 pct

That decision agreed in outline last December after virtually nine days of nonstop negotiations was hailed as the most significant step yet in the reform offensive but has since run into difficulties over the fine print

West Germany and Ireland are objecting to the new rules governing the sales of surplus butter into cold stores but the Commission is loathe to abandon its position as the accord has been used as the inspiration for Andriessens latest package

Ministers failed yesterday to overcome the problem and resumed negotiations in a bid to finalise the details before starting the price review which is confidently predicted to last many months

EC farm spending currently swallows two thirds of an overall annual budget of around 40 billion dlrs and is almost entirely blamed for a projected budget shortfall later this year of some 57 billion dlrs

Reuter