EU halts aid to cheese makers after compensation claims stink
The EU halted aid to cheese producers on Tuesday hit by a Russian import embargo after what sources said were dubious compensation claims.
"The Commission has stopped the system of Private Storage Aid for cheese because of the disproportionate volumes notified from certain regions which are not traditionally exporting significant quantities to Russia," a Commission spokesman said.
Last month, the European Commission announced a series of emergency measures for dairy farmers and cooperatives hit by a ban on milk and cheese imports, which Moscow imposed in retaliation for EU sanctions over its alleged support for rebels in Ukraine.
The EU's executive arm agreed to pay for the cold storage of butter, milk powder and certain cheeses for three to seven months.
An EU source said on condition of anonymity that the bulk of questionable claims came from Italy, which requested 74,254 tonnes of cold storage capability, far ahead of Ireland and the Netherlands.
In just a few weeks, the claims have used up 87 percent of the budget allotted for the programme, the source said.
However, the countries most affected by the Russian import ban are Finland and the Baltic nations, where at least 75 percent of cheese exports traditionally go to Russia.
The Russian embargo, set to last a year, covers imports of meat, fruit and vegetables, fish, and dairy products from the European Union, the United States, Australia, Canada and Norway.
Earlier this month, the EU suspended 125 million euros aid to fruit and vegetable growers after similar suspicions were raised.
© 2014 AFP