EU ups farmers compensation offer to 210 mln euros
The European Commission raised its offer of compensation on Wednesday to 210 million euros for vegetable farmers whose incomes have collapsed since a killer E. coli outbreak centred on Germany.
European Union agriculture commissioner Dacian Ciolos told a news briefing in Brussels that the new aid envelope, after Spain, France and others criticised a previous offer of 150, would see farmers able to claim at least 50 percent of reference prices for certain produce.
Ciolos also added two new vegetables to the cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce already on the list -- courgettes, or zucchinis, and peppers.
"I have decided to raise the level of compensation from 30 percent to 50 percent of the reference prices for the products affected for all producers," Ciolos said.
That decision came despite Spanish cucumber farmers demanding 100 percent of revenues lost after German authorities initially and falsely traced the source of the disease to Spanish produce.
Ciolos added that producers who are members of vegetable producer associations would have access to other funding sources which would allow them to claim "up to 70 percent" of the value of produce unable to shift on markets.
"In total, in the first instance, we will have a budget of 210 million euros (290 million dollars)," he said.
The Romanian commissioner said the EU executive was "doing the maximum within the budget and current constraints," spelling out that all produce pulled from markets from May 26 onwards would be classed as eligible for compensatory payouts.
Germany expressed hope that the "worst" of the killer bacteria outbreak was over, with at least 25 people dead and more than 2,600 ill but new infections falling.
Germany will maintain its warning against eating raw tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers and various sprouts until it finds the mysterious outbreak's cause.
© 2011 AFP