Monday, January 31, 2005

No more nasty surprises says Fischer Boel

EU farmers need not fear fresh unsettling novelties in agricultural policy once sugar reform is complete, farm commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel told women farmers; representatives during Berlin's Green Week. 'I have no further reform package in my briefcase to shake everything up again,' she said.

She also told farmers that she was having second thoughts about letting sugar quota remove across national borders, one of the key parts of the proposed sugar reform. The move has been opposed by a group of ten less efficient countries led by Spain, but backed by UK growers and processors as one possible way of maintaining scale in the British sugar industry.

One might also think that not allowing quotas to move across borders is incompatible with the idea of an internal market, although dairy quotas cannot be traded from one country to another. However, the prevailing mindset among farmers was illustrated by German farm leader Gerd Sonnleiter who urged Mrs Fischer Boel to 'restrict calls for the destruction of what has been an effective means of regulating the market.'

Mrs Fischer Boel may yet be forced into further reform by tight budgetary constraints. Budget commissioner Dalia Grybauskaité, commenting on proposals to cap the EU budget at one per cent of gross national income, described farm spending as an area 'far from competitiveness, only pretending to be competitive, except maybe for the rural development programmes.'

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