Transition period suggested for fruit and veg reform

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Fischer boel, European union, Common agricultural policy

EU agriculture minister Mariann Fischer Boal is willing to consider
a transition period for the adoption of EU fruit and vegetable
reforms, according to reports, which would act as a cushion for the
processing sector.

Reforms to the Common Market Organisation (CMO) for fruit and vegetables were proposed by the European Commission in January. Subject to approval by the Council and Parliament, they would bring to an end the current CMO, which is based partly on providing support to producers on the basis of quantity delivered to the processing industry, and instead transferring to a single payment scheme. Speaking after a meeting of EU farm ministers yesterday, Fischer Boel indicated that she was willing to consider a short transition period for the ending of processing aids, according to a Reuters report. For fruit and veg canners, freezers, jam and pickle makers and the rest of the processing industry, there are major concerns that the reform will impact on their raw material supply, since the shift will make it more lucrative for farmers to switch to other crops rather than continue growing produce for processing. Concern about supply in the medium to long term future will be a major theme at the 5th​ Conference of European Vegetable Processing Industries, taking place in Brussels this week. "It's clear that some flexibility will be needed,"​ Fischer Boel told reporters. "But the final goal has to be total decoupling."​ Overall, she said there seems to be broad support for the proposal, which would bring the sector in line with the rest of the reformed Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). In January the Commission said it hoped for Council and Parliament approval by the middle of the year, so that it could enter into force in 2008. This aim appears achievable, with Fischer Boel saying that the "contours of an agreement in June"​ can be seen. "Most sectors covered by the CAP have now been brought into the Single Payment Scheme (SPS). It's time that the fruit and vegetable sector followed that movement,"​ she said in January. "This is about giving to fruit and vegetable production the benefits which the SPS has brought to other sectors. We have to see the fruit and vegetable sector in the context of the CAP as a whole."​ The minister added that in order to achieve these objectives, the role of the Producer Organisations, which often run the sector in some regions, should be supported. "We also propose that Producer Organisations should have to devote at least 20 per cent of the spending in their operational programmes to environmental measures."​ The objectives of the reform therefore are to help make the sector more competitive and market-oriented, for the sake of sustainable production, to encourage people in the European Union to eat more fruit and vegetables and to make the sector more environmentally responsible.

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