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EU Council Debated on Cereal Prices, Sugar Quotas

23 May 2011

EU - The proposal on increasing the intervention price of cereals and sugar production quotas was debated by agricultural ministers in Brussels. No decision was taken on the negotiations on a legally binding agreement on forests in Europe.

Agricultural ministers could not agree on the authorisation, which should be given to the Commission representing the EU, and the Presidency acting on behalf all Member States in the Forest Europe international negotiations. Within the framework of Forest Europe, legally binding agreement is to be concluded by 30 June 2013.

As Minister for Rural Development Sándor Fazekas said during the press conference after the meeting, three Member States, namely the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom, did not back the idea of a legally binding agreement. "The qualified majority was achieved, but further negotiations are still needed in order to reach a consensus. The Council sent the question back to the Permanent Representatives Committee (COREPER), for further negotiation," Mr Fazekas said.

The Forest Europe inter-governmental policy process started in 1990, now includes 46 European countries. Its aim is to mitigate climate change, secure fresh water supplies, and preserve forest biodiversity. Any agreement on forests in Europe falls under both EU and national competences. This means that the opening for negotiations on a legally binding agreement in this area would have to be concluded by both the EU and the member states. The next ministerial conference of Forest Europe will take place in Oslo, on 14â€"16 June.

French request to bring forward disbursement of direct payments

The Council discussed the French proposal to bring the disbursement of direct payments forward, in order to help farmers facing a difficult situation due to spring droughts, and other natural disasters, Fazekas said. The Council is ready for the consultation, the minister added.

Polish request to increase cereal intervention prices and sugar quotas

At the meeting of the agricultural ministers, Poland requested to increase the intervention price of cereals, in response to the fast increase of production costs. As a result, in recent years the uncertainty of production have become worse and the profitability of cereal production have reduced. For this reason, Poland proposed to raise the intervention price of cereals to 130 euro per ton.

Fazekas said at the press conference, that Commissioner for Agricultural and Rural Development Dacian Ciolos advocated the maintenance of actual intervention prices.

"According to the Commission, the current intervention price of 101 euro fulfils its role; therefore, its increase is not topical at this point. The Council acknowledged the Commission's position," Mr Fazekas said.

Poland also requested for the increase in sugar production quotas of each Member State by 15 per cent, starting from the 2011/2012 season. In recent years, the quota of sugar production in the EU has stayed lower than the actual consumption, meaning restrictions both for sugar-beet growers and sugar producers.

Fazekas said during the press conference that, "Several Member States supported the Polish proposal," the Commission gave detailed information on the actual situation, and "Commissioner Ciolos sees the solution in imports." In response to questions, Mr Fazekas added that, "Mainly those countries were supporting the increase of sugar quotas, where quotas had been greatly reduced, but other Member States were also in favour."

Codex Alimentarius negotiations

The Hungarian Presidency put forward a report to the Member States on the current status of the Codex Alimentarius negotiations. The Codex Alimentarius Council (CAC) was founded jointly in 1962 by the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), and by the World Health Organization. The body develops international food standards. The EU is one of the world's biggest food exporters and importers; therefore, it is ambitious to maintain its leading role, which it obtained in the past years concerning international food standards.

During the Hungarian Presidency, eight different Codex Alimentarius Committee meetings have been held. Minister Sándor Fazekas said in the press conference after the Council's meeting, "Thanks to the exemplary cooperation between the Commission, the General Secretariat of the Council, Member States and the Presidency; we can now efficiently represent EU interests on several issues. We managed to push some of the EU's highly sensitive issues towards a favourable direction, such as the current regulations on the allowed pollution and food additive level in olive oil, natural mineral water and food products, and on sampling and analytic methods."

Finally, the Hungarian Minister gave information about the conference "Transition towards sustainable food consumption and production in a resource constrained world," held on 4â€"5 May 2011, in Budapest. "We will remember this conference as a turning point, in the history of European agricultural research organisation, with its aims envisioning a bright and sustainable future," said Fazekas.

TheCropSite News Desk

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