German farmers say more aid needed after E. Coli

11th June 2011, Comments 0 comments

The EU should boost the support offered to farmers hit by a bacteria outbreak that has cost hundreds of millions of euros in lost sales around the continent, a German farming leader said.

Head of the German Farmers Federation Gert Sonnleiter wants the EU's agricultural commissioner to increase the 210-million-euro ($303 million) offer to injured farmers, the Tagesspiegel reported Saturday.

"Damages in the whole of the EU have reached between 500 million and 600 million euros," including a 65-million-euro loss suffered by German farmers alone, Sonnleiter said.

German health authorities told consumers to avoid raw cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce on suspicion that those vegetables were the source of the bacteria that has killed 32 people in Germany and another in Sweden.

The outbreak of the virulent E. coli strain EHEC-0104 has so far affected 14 countries.

On Friday Germany officials said they had identified vegetable sprouts at a farm in the northern village of Bienenbuettel as the likely contamination source, creating hope the outbreak would soon be contained.

German health officials also lifted the warning against eating raw tomatoes, lettuce and cucumbers, a move welcomed by farmers devastated by the two-week long crisis.

The announcements came after test results on a packet of vegetable sprouts recovered from the rubbish bin of two sick people living in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia provided the first direct trail evidence for the virulent bacteria.

Speaking on WDR-5 radio station on Saturday, the minister for the environment and consumer protection in North-Rhine-Westphalia, Johannes Remmel urged all consumers to report any suspicious vegetable sprouts.

He also applauded a "very vigilant" man who notified the authorities after suspecting he might be in possession of some of the dangerous sprouts.

German authorities had initially identified cucumbers imported from Spain as responsible for the outbreak, but later retracted when tests proved negative, infuriating Madrid and sparking threats of lawsuits.

Spanish farmers say they have lost 225 million euros every week since the crisis erupted.

Farmers were futher hit when Russia imposed a blanket ban on vegetables from the 27-nation EU bloc, a move blasted by EU officials.

Moscow agreed at a summit with the EU on Friday to lift the ban although it was not immediately clear when the announcement would come into effect.

German Health Minister Daniel Barh told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper that "the epidemic is declining," but cautioned that "new deaths cannot be ruled out," in an interview to be published Sunday.

After criticism of the government's handling of the crisis, the agriculture and health ministries said Berlin would review the response on the federal and state level.

© 2011 AFP

0 Comments To This Article