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EU calls for €150 million to aid farmers hit by E.coli

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-06-08

The EU commission has asked agriculture ministers from the 27-nation bloc to consider releasing €150 million to help European vegetable producers cope with a dramatic decline in sales since the deadly E.coli bacteria outbreak in Germany.

AP - The EU’s farm chief on Tuesday proposed €150 million ($219 million) 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 percent of the value of vegetables that cannot be sold because of the German E. coli crisis.
An agreement in principle on aid is expected later Tuesday.
EU farmers outside northern Germany where the crisis is located have been livid that their crops have been hurt by the fallout of the continentwide scare.
“We propose 150 million euro. We will obviously see what we get,” Ciolos said. The figure roughly translates to the 30 percent 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 Tuesday 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 cooperation and said exports from that country could be resumed soon if officials there send more information.

Date created : 2011-06-07