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Stackyard News Jan 07

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    Fruit and Vegetable Reform Proposals Cause Concern

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.

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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 and vegetables.

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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National Farmers' Union