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EU farm chief proposes $219 million in aid


June 7, 2011
By The Canadian Press

Topics

June
7, 2011, Brussels, Belgium – The European Union’s farm chief proposed $219
million US in aid to help producers hit by the continent’s E. coli
contamination crisis.

June
7, 2011, Brussels, Belgium – The European Union’s farm chief proposed $219
million US in aid to help producers hit by the continent’s E. coli
contamination crisis.

European
Union Farm Commissioner
Dacian Ciolos said agriculture ministers will consider
whether farmers can recoup from EU coffers up to 30 per cent of the value of
vegetables that cannot be sold because of the German E. coli crisis.

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EU
farmers outside northern Germany where the crisis is located have been livid
that their crops have been hurt by the fallout of the continent-wide scare.

“We
propose 150 million euro. We will obviously see what we get,” Ciolos said. The
figure roughly translates to the 30 per cent compensation, but EU nations were
expected to haggle over the details of the plan for several hours.

EU
health chief John Dalli earlier warned Germany against premature – and
inaccurate – conclusions on the source of the contaminated food, which has left
22 dead, spread fear all over Europe and cost farmers in exports.

Dalli
told the EU parliament in Strasbourg that such public information must be
scientifically sound and foolproof before it becomes public.

Over
the past days Germany first pointed a finger at Spanish cucumbers, then at
local sprouts, before backtracking on both.

German
agriculture minister Ilse Aigner sidestepped the criticism. “Today is about
(finding) a European solution. It is a European problem,” she said. Aigner also
defended the country’s warnings on Spanish cucumbers and bean sprouts from a
German farm, saying both had traces of the disease and needed to be alerted.

The
EU has also been angry at Russia for banning all EU vegetable exports for such
a local crisis.

Briefing
reporters in Brussels, Ambassador Vladimir Chizhov defended the ban and,
laughing heartily, linked the name of the bacterium with the bloc.

“The
problem is not with the Russian ban,” Chizhov said. “The problem is with the –
well, I wouldn’t like to say the EU.coli – but the disease which has struck a
dozen countries of the European Union.”

He
said the ban was imposed initially when Russian authorities received no
information at all on the outbreak. Even now, he said, the data being given to
Russia is mostly statistics rather than information on the cause of the
disease.

In
response to a question, he said that if the cause is never pinpointed but the
region being hit by the outbreak were isolated, the import ban could be
regionalized rather than applying to the entire 27-nation EU.

He
said he sympathized with European farmers who were losing money. But he added,
“No material loss is comparable to the loss of human life.”

In
Russia, the chief sanitary official told the Interfax news agency there was
progress toward the easing of the ban.

Gennady
Onishchenko said that European officials had promised to pass on samples of the
strain of E. coli. He singled out Denmark’s co-operation and said exports from
that country could be resumed soon if officials there send more information.