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"Beginning Of The End" For Export Refunds

Alyn Smith MEP, Scottish full member of the European Parliament's Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, has welcomed today's (Monday) committee vote on the agricultural budget for 2013 to either reduce or eliminate entirely the vast majority of budget lines funding export refunds, with the exception of beef, veal and poultry meat.

The committee members voted by a large majority to eliminate all export refunds, which subsidise farmers and food companies exporting food products outside of the EU market when the world price is below the EU price, on milk and milk products, live animals, pig meat and eggs, while reducing substantially the sums spent on export refunds for poultry meat and other products.

The committee also voted to reapprove a pilot project, initiated in 2010 by Alyn, for a European Food Prices and Margins Observatory, to collect detailed and easily comparable data on where profits are being made in the food chain, and to increase transparency on the markets. Members also restored cuts made by the Council to important budget lines such as aid to producer organisations and the School Fruit Scheme.

Alyn said:

"Although export refunds are nothing like as important in the architecture of agricultural support as they used to be, falling from around half of subsidies in the 1980s to 1-2% of the budget now, they were still worth 385m EUR in 2010, still continue to distort markets in developing countries by dumping food at an artificially low price, and still provide significant payoffs to some of the largest agri-businesses in the EU.

"It is simply illogical, and inconsistent with the EU's development agenda that these subsidies continue.  I understand why some farmers cling to these outdated measures with volatile markets, but shifting the burden to farmers in the developing world is not the answer - we need to develop producer organisations so that farmers can bargain for a better price against processors and retailers in Europe, and that's what out budget vote does.  We've taken an important step towards ending these subsidies, and I hope plenary endorses our aims.

"I'm also pleased that the Prices and Margins Observatory concept continues to receive support.  Hopefully this time the Commission will give this worthy cause the attention it deserves, so we can start reversing the great disparities of power within the food chain."