EU considers raising spending to feed poor

Europe's farm chief is thinking of putting more cash into a scheme that feeds millions of poor people after radical policy changes ended the EU's notorious grain mountains and milk lakes of the 1980s and 1990s.

EU considers raising spending to feed poor
The food aid scheme was set up during Europe's exceptionally cold winter of 1986 when surplus stocks of food commodities were given to national charities to distribute to needy people. Now, after a series of policy changes, those stocks are mostly gone.

Before the EU's reform of its Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in 2003, public intervention stocks of cereals, beef, butter, milk powder, olive oil, rice and sugar were usually plentiful and stored around Europe at taxpayers' expense.

But those large surplus stocks, for which the EU was heavily criticised by its trading partners for exporting with subsidies, are now mostly non-existent, with the exception of sugar.

"We have a scheme that was based on intervention stocks, which don't really exist any more, so it (the food aid scheme) needs to be redone," one official at the European Commission said.

EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel is due to propose revisions to the 22-year-old scheme in mid-September and is expected to recommend a tendering system for national governments to buy food from their own local markets.

While details are still being worked out, she is believed to recommend increased spending for 2009, with a budget that might extend up to 500 million euros ($771.5 million) compared with the 310 million euros earmarked in the 2008 spending plan that will provide millions of meals in 19 of the EU's 27 countries.

Then, from 2010 onwards, EU governments would match-fund the amounts of cash they received from Brussels, euro for euro, to raise the total amount of available cash for Europe's "most deprived", as the scheme is formally known.

More economically disadvantaged areas would get 75 percent of their bill paid by EU money, the official suggested.

"It would still be a bigger budget than now, plus co-financing (match-funding). The member states would, on a national level, tender to buy food off the market in their own countries," he said.

For 2008, about 67,000 tonnes of sugar is available to be handed out free from public stocks.

For other commodities, the European Commission has allocated 86 million euros to buy cereals, 15 million to buy rice and 160 million euros to buy skimmed milk powder, official data showed.

As the EU's farm surpluses have fallen, the food aid scheme has been bolstered by direct cash contributions first used in 1995. For this year's distribution plan, the Commission has made finance available for charities to buy food on the open market.

Last Mod: 13 Haziran 2008, 13:01
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