The European Commission announced yesterday [Thursday] the payment of €400m (US$365m) to four EU countries to re-imburse them for compensation paid to farmers with animals affected by foot and mouth disease. The amounts are based on Commission estimates of the average value of the animals slaughtered, or those set by the national authorities where that is lower.

Most, by far, of the cash - some €355m - is going to the UK. The Netherlands will receive €39m, France €3.3m and Ireland €2.7m. Under EU regulations 60% of the eligible costs are being met from the EU budget. Commission officials said there could be further payments which would be fixed when Brussels had made further financial and veterinary inspections and the qualifying countries had lodged their final claims. However "it is not expected that these will be as large," they said.

By Alan Osborn, just-food.com correspondent