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June 6, 2011

EU: Ministers to discuss compensation for E. coli-hit farmers

EU agricultural ministers will meet tomorrow (7 June) to discuss "concrete options" around compensating farmers that have been hit by the E. coli crisis.

EU agricultural ministers will meet tomorrow (7 June) to discuss “concrete options” around compensating farmers that have been hit by the E. coli crisis.

A spokesperson for the EU’s Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner within the European Commission told just-food that the ministers will meet in Luxembourg tomorrow to consider what sort of compensation can be proposed to farmers.

The spokesperson said there remain a number of legal questions around what can be proposed, the actual losses that have been incurred and what it would cost to compensate the farmers.

Spain’s produce sector has faced severe losses after German health authorities wrongly alleged that Spanish cucumbers were behind the outbreak.

However, farmers in other member states that have seen sales drop could be eligible for compensation.

The spokesperson acknowledged that “everyone has been talking about Spain’s losses” but he insisted the issue affected farmers across the EU. Last week, at a meeting of EU agricultural ministers in Hungary, all member states said they were witnessing a drop in consumption, he explained.

“It’s an EU problem, and it’s been recognised that it requires an EU solution,” he said.

In Spain, the Spanish Federation of Associations of Producers and Exporters of Fruits, Vegetables, Flowers and Live Plants (FEPEX) said that exports of fruit and vegetables had not yet returned to normal. The sector is still experiencing “major difficulties” in Germany and in “several European markets”, FEPEX said.

The association said that exports of stone fruit had also started to be severely hampered amid a 35% fall in prices.

The trade group said that in the last week, the stone fruit industry had already lost some EUR7m, including losses in transport and labour.

FEPEX added that the “situation remains critical” in Spain’s main fruit and vegetable production areas and is “intensifying” with the Russian ban on imports of strawberries and forest fruits. Spanish trucks that were on the border before the ban’s announcement remain blocked today, FEPEX revealed.

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