European Union farm ministers have acted to help exporters of processed food products affected by restrictions on refunds arising out of agreements reached by the EU in the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations. The curtailment of refunds, which help offset the higher costs of European raw materials, threatened trade in a sector where 2.5 million people are employed. Ministers agreed that small exporters, with business up to the equivalent of £30,000 a year, should be exempted from the requirement to submit certificates for export refunds. Officials said the move will ensure that food processing firms obtain sufficient quantity of raw materials to plan for the future and keep running costs down.

By Alan Osborn