EU agriculture ministers have reached a “political compromise” on a 7-point plan to amend the beef market organisation, aimed at bringing supply into balance with the currently sharply reduced European demand. Farm commissioner Franz Fischler said that because of the BSE crisis, beef consumption was still considerably below normal and “significant” export
markets were still blocked. There was still a big backlog of animals to be presented for slaughter later in the year, which could mean a surplus of 300,00-500,000 tonnes later in the year, he said.

Beef consumption is not expected to return to normal for two years but the new package should lead to a cut in production to create space on the market, according to the Commission.  Main elements of the measures approved by ministers are a reduction of stocking densities from two to 1.8 cattle per hectare, reductions in special premiums paid to farmers and limits on overall numbers of cattle, though no Member State would see a reduction of
more than 20%.

By Alan Osborn, correspondent