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June 15, 2011

UPDATE: EU: Spanish produce industry rejects E. coli aid package

Spanish produce growers have called on the Spanish government to take legal action against the European Commission over the EUR210m (US$286.8m) aid package designed to provide compensation for Europe's fresh produce industry.

Spanish produce growers have called on the Spanish government to take legal action against the European Commission over the EUR210m (US$286.8m) aid package designed to provide compensation for Europe’s fresh produce industry.

The package, proposed last week and approved yesterday (14 June), will be used to compensate European producers of cucumbers, lettuces, tomatoes, courgettes and peppers who have been hit by falling salesin the wake of the German E. coli outbreak.

Under the Commission’s proposal, farmers will be paid for up to half the value of goods withdrawn from the market, based on a reference price for June, the Commission said in a statement. The final figure will be confirmed on 22 July, the European Commission added.

Demand for fresh produce declined significantly after German authorities wrongly linked the E. coli outbreak, which has to date resulted in 37 confirmed deaths, to various produce items – including Spanish cucumbers. German food safety regulators also advised consumers to avoid uncooked tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce.

The E. coli strain was eventually traced to bean sprouts produced at a single farm in Bienenbuettel, Germany.

However, Spanish fresh produce federation FEPEX has insisted that the package is “insufficient” and called on Spain’s government to appeal the decision at the European Court of Justice.

A spokesperson for the industry body told just-food that Spanish farmers hit by the crisis should be compensated for 100% of their losses.

“The mismanagement of the E. coli crisis by European and German authorities is costing Spanish farmers their livelihoods. The produce [industry] should be compensated for all losses – not just half. This is insufficient,” the spokesperson said.

Spain, alongside France, Poland and Slovakia, attempted to vote down the package and called for more help for more farmers producing a wider range of produce.

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