Germany vows to restore image of Spanish veg: minister

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Germany will help repair damage done to the reputation of Spanish vegetables, falsely blamed for a deadly bacteria outbreak, Spain's Europe minister said after talks in Berlin Thursday.

"The German government has agreed to make an effort to improve the image of Spanish produce in Germany," Diego Lopez Garrido told reporters after talks with German counterpart Werner Hoyer.

"Twenty-five percent of our vegetable exports are to Germany, it is our most important export market. Therefore it is also the duty of the German government to assist us with promotion," he said.

He described as "unfortunate" a false alarm in May by Hamburg's health senator blaming organic Spanish cucumbers as a source for the outbreak of E. coli poisoning that has now killed at least 25 people.

The warning, later withdrawn, prompted an EU-wide alert and dealt Spanish growers a heavy blow as sales slumped across the 27-nation bloc. Producers in other countries have also been hit.

Spain's fruit and vegetables exporters association, FEPEX, on Monday estimated losses as 225 million euros ($328 million) per week since the scare began in May.

The European Commission raised its offer of compensation on Wednesday to 210 million euros ($307 million) for vegetable farmers across Europe after Spain, France and others criticised a proposed 150 million euros as too low.

© 2011 AFP

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