The European Commission today (Wednesday) formally signed an agreement that will provide the equivalent of £312m a year out of the EU budget to ten eastern European countries that have applied for Union membership. The programme, which will run for seven years, will assist the countries in bringing their food production into line with the Common Agricultural Policy, at the same time helping them deal with specific agricultural and rural development problems. Some two thirds of the cash - about £190m a year - will go to Poland and Romania in roughly equal shares. The rest will be shared by Hungary, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Slovakia. It is the latest in a series of drip-feed announcements of subsidies being paid to eastern Europe.

By Alan Osborn, just-food.com correspondent