Monday, November 15, 2004

Cauliflower farmers go on rampage

French cauliflower farmers have gone on the rampage after the EU pulled back from a plan to support them when prices fell below a trigger level. Hundreds of tonnes of cauliflowers have been dumped in Cancale in Britanny and two police officers were held for several hours by growers in a cooperative near Lannion. The protesters complain that they are facing unfair competition from new member states, especially Poland.

The Commission had been planning to take its own decision on the matter after the Farm Council was deadlocked on the rescue plan with no qualified majority for or against the proposal. The Commission argued that cauliflower production is characterised by wide fluctuations in supply depending on the weather, but that is true of many agricultural products and the real reason for action was French pressure.

However, the Commission as a whole threw out the plan for €2.5m of support a year. The EU's Management Committee for Fresh Fruit and Vegetables had been sharply divided on the issue, while EU Budget Commissioner Michaele Schreyer prevented the Commission from passing the proposal without discussion. Some Commissioners pointed out that giving the aid might be seen as a reversion to its bad old ways, handing old-fashioned market support to ailing sectors at a time when the budget as a whole is under pressure.

One possible future use for cauliflowers is as a source of bio-degradable plastics which could be used for surfboards. As a fashion item they are filling up landfills in Cornwall which is also a cauliflower growing area.

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