Thursday, 18 September 2008

EU backs more food aid for Europe's poor (IHT)

BRUSSELS: The European Commission backed a plan on Wednesday to pour more cash into an EU scheme to feed millions of poor people across Europe.
The plan was drafted after radical policy changes ended the infamous grain mountains and milk lakes of the 1980s and 1990s.
With most of those stocks gone, EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel recommended raising spending on the EU's food aid scheme, set up in 1986 to distribute its surplus food stocks to a wide range of people living in poverty.
"Now that surplus stocks are extremely low and unlikely to increase in the foreseeable future, the scheme should allow market purchases on a permanent basis, to complement remaining intervention stocks," the European Commission said on Wednesday as it backed the proposal.Under the plan spending on the scheme would rise to 500 million euros (398 million pounds) in 2009 from the 310 million euros earmarked in 2008.
The scheme will provide millions of meals to people including families, the elderly and asylum seekers in 19 of the EU's 27 countries.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.If ministers agree, food distribution plans will be set up for three-year periods, in cooperation with charities and local social services, and with EU countries choosing the food they want, based on nutritional criteria. Priority will be given to intervention stocks where these are available.
For the three-year plan starting in 2010, EU states would get 75 percent of the costs paid by Brussels but have to pay the remaining 25 percent themselves. More economically disadvantaged areas would get 85 percent of their bill paid by EU money.
From 2013, EU countries would have to match, euro for euro, the cash they get from Brussels. Poorer regions would pay 25 percent of their costs and EU money would cover 75 percent.
Around 43 million people across the European Union are believed to be at risk of food poverty, based on their inability to afford to buy a meal with meat, chicken or fish every second day, the Commission says.

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