There’s nothing quite like helping with the harvest to blow away the cobwebs gathered during ten long days of negotiation in Geneva. Following all the headlines we’ve seen about high food prices, I’m delighted to see that this year’s cereals harvest is estimated to be around 307 million tonnes, up by around 50 million tonnes from last year.
Our rapid decision to abolish set-aside has played a major role in boosting output after two poor years. When needs must, we can be as flexible as anyone!
The weather this year was far from special, but at least we didn’t suffer the terrible climatic conditions which wreaked havoc the previous two years.
That’s not too say we didn’t have our fair share of grey skies and even rain.
So it was an even bigger pleasure to fly off in early September to Mauritius to have a look at their sugar industry and see how they are adjusting to the EU’s sugar market reforms.
I must say that I went there with a certain amount of anxiety. I was half expecting to be pursued by mobs of angry sugar growers! Fortunately, I can assure Sunghoon (see last entry) that the reception I got was extremely warm. Life is far from easy for the Mauritians, but most people I met accepted that there was no alternative to our reforms.
The months ahead promise to be no less intense than what has gone before and I am looking forward to rolling my sleeves up and getting into the nitty-gritty of the Health Check negotiations. We also have the informal ministeral meeting in beautiful Annecy to look forward to, which aims to look even further ahead to the CAP after 2013.
But first things first. The Health Check is priority number one for me at the moment. It can make improvements to our policy now, for the benefit of all.
In the meantime, people have returned to the normal routines of work and school term. I’m very pleased to say that the relaunched EU school milk programme began with the new school term.
This has been redesigned to extend it to older children, to improve the range of products on offer and to get rid of the anomaly that saw fattier milk receiving a higher subsidy.
I think giving kids good eating habits at an early age is vital.
Today’s obese youngsters are the sick adults of tomorrow.
We don’t all need to be fit enough to bring in the harvest, but everyone deserves good health.
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