Proposals announced by the European Commission for reforming the
rules that govern the fruit and vegetable sectors, including potatoes,
are a cause for real concern according to NFU Scotland.
Last week, the Commission announced a number of proposals to come into
effect from January 2008, if agreed by EU Farm Ministers. The proposals
are complex, detailed and have yet to be fully clarified. However, it is
clear that the most significant proposal is to integrate fruit and vegetable
sectors into the Single Farm Payment Scheme (SFPS).
There are no support payments paid to producers of fruit and vegetables,
however by incorporating the sectors into the SFPS they become theoretically
eligible for new entitlements. Also, significantly, existing holders of
SFP entitlements would be able to claim them on land used to grow fruit
The proposal could cause problems in member states, or regions such as
Scotland, that adopted the historic model of allocating SFP entitlements
and are therefore not paying support payments on land used to grow fruit
and vegetables (because they were historically unsupported). Other countries,
such as England, are already paying support to the fruit and vegetable sectors
as their scheme is area-based and not only targeted at farmers who traditionally
operated in subsidised sectors.
NFUS Chief Executive Andy Robertson said:
“The historic model of single farm payments included a very important
mechanism to prevent fruit and vegetable growers being disadvantaged. This
was the ‘negative list’, which to date has protected the unsupported
sectors by preventing existing SFP recipients effectively subsidising a
move into fruit and vegetables.
“It would be quite wrong for the negative list to be abolished and
for this protection to be removed. If the proposal is adopted, I can see
no other way for the Executive to protect our fruit and vegetable growers
than by offering them entitlements.
“Scottish fruit and vegetable growers are already disadvantaged by
the fact that growers in regions paying the SFP on an area basis have been
receiving support payments. These proposals have the potential to exacerbate
that problem because our competitors in Europe could be paid support payments
while we have to continue unsupported.
“There are a host of other proposals which much be carefully looked
at such as provisions for crisis management, which could potentially prop
up countries that are over-producing. We will be working closely with Brussels
and the Executive to ensure the concerns of Scotland’s fruit and vegetable
businesses are heard.”
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