Romania is to receive €150m from the European Commission's SAPARD scheme to fund food industry development programmes, which will help the eastern European country prepare itself for membership of the European Union.

The money will assist agencies charged with monitoring plant, animal and food health, vocational training, technical assistance, direct investment into farm holdings and the setting up of producer groups.

It will also boost "sustainable development of a competitive food industry, achieved by modernising the processing and marketing of agricultural and fishery products."

The money will also fund efforts by the Romanian government to comply with European legislation on food standards and consumer protection, public health, animal health and welfare, and plant health as well as diversifying its agricultural sector. The food industry in 1999 accounted for 27.9% of Romania's national income with the processing industry providing 213,000 jobs. Romania hopes to join the EU by 2010 at the latest.

By Keith Nuthall, just-food.com correspondent