E.coli O157 & Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome

EU raises emergency aid

1st August 2011

THE emergency aid package agreed by the European Commission for those vegetable growers affected by the recent E.coli crisis in Germany is to be increased to 227 million.

An initial aid package of 210m was announced in June, to pay producers for cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, courgettes, and sweet peppers which were withdrawn from the market between May 26 and the end of June as a result of the outbreak.

In a recent statement, the EC said it appeared the financial impact of the measures taken to counteract the E.coli crisis had been slightly bigger than expected. The new figure will meet the full compensation demanded from different member states.

However, to date British growers have only been able to claim for less than 600,000 of aid, when the real cost of the outbreak to their businesses runs into several million.

Humberside salad growers are furious as they have received a tiny fraction of compensation being dispensed around Europe. The biggest chunk of the money is going to Spain to pay for Germanys mistake in initially blaming Spanish cucumbers for the cause of the outbreak. This accusation led to a slump in demand for all kinds of vegetables normally eaten raw cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, courgettes and peppers.

Taxpayers money from all over Europe will be used to meet a Spanish claim for 71 million Euros compensation plus 35m for Italy; 46m for Poland; 57m for Latvia; 27m for the Netherlands; and 16m for Germany itself. But the UK only asked for 649,000.

Graham Ward, a representative of Yorkshire glasshouse interests in the National Farmers Union, said yesterday: "If the UK claim was much lower than some, that is because the hit was not as hard. Customers stayed considerably loyal to British products. But German demand for Spanish imports stopped stone dead"

However, Derek Hargreaves, a full-time officer of the Cucumber Growers Association, said UK losses had probably been 20 times the claims. Most were not eligible for compensation because dumped vegetables had to be available for inspection after June 17, when the EC first announced the scheme.

By the time the rules were clear, it was too late for a lot of cucumber and tomato growers, he said: "And the Rural Payments Agency, which vetted the claims, were absolute blighters, because the EU auditors have punished them in the past and they were not going to be caught again. I cannot prove other countries are on the fiddle but the payments are certainly not all in proportion to the size of their industries. It is outrageous that we are all paying for Germanys mistake."


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