French agriculture minister, Jean Glavany, said yesterday that his country may be willing to consider changes to the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

The present policy, which is targeted at maximising output through guaranteed prices, aid to farmers and export subsidies, was called ‘outdated’ by Glavany.

Speaking at a meeting of EU farm ministers in Sweden, Glavany said he would like to see CAP realigned to concerns that seeks to improve food quality, though he cautioned against a drastic upheaval.
“Reorientation is the objective and reform is the means to achieve it,” said Glavany. “The policy of producing as much as possible is outdated. We need a new contract between farmers and society to produce food of better quality.”

Glavany’s comments reflect the new mood currently drifting through the EU towards social, environmental and quality issues affecting farming and food. The BSE crisis in Europe and the epidemic of foot and mouth in Britain has increased urgency towards a move away from intensive agricultural production towards more “sustainable” methods.

The European Commission is presently reviewing the effectiveness of limited reforms to the CAP agreed at the Berlin summit in 1999, but any further changes have in the past been resisted by Jacques Chirac, the French president, who says changes can only come into place after the EU has renegotiated its financing arrangements in 2006.