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Farm leaders say £365m aid package is not enough

Farmers protesting in Brussels
Farmers protesting in Brussels

Farm leaders have warned a £365million aid package from the European Commission does not go far enough to help crisis-hit farmers.

The aid package was unveiled on Monday following an extraordinary meeting of EU farm ministers in Brussels.

That same day more than 6,000 farmers and 2,000 tractors from across Europe gathered for a mass protest, with the Belgian capital left gridlocked as a result of the demonstration.

The EU said its crisis package would focus on three key areas – addressing cash-flow problems, stabilising markets and improving how the supply chain works.

It said it would provide financial support to dairy farmers and it increased the amount of subsidy support that member states could pay early, provided the paperwork was in order.

Scottish farm minister Richard Lochhead said it was unclear how the package would benefit Scottish farmers.

“This proposal from the European Commission is inadequate and too vague. It does refer to the cash flow, market and supply chain issues the industry is currently facing, but we urgently need clarity on what it means for Scottish farmers both in the short and long term,” said Mr Lochhead, who attended the special meeting.

“My officials are working flat out to ensure that support payments start at the end of December. The commission is offering to ease controls to ensure all payments can be made as quickly as possible once the window opens, but we desperately need clarity on what we need to do – and what we don’t need to do – in order to make sure this happen.”

Meanwhile, Copa-Cogeca – the Brussels-based group representing farming unions and co-operatives, and the instigator of Monday’s protests – said the aid package was far from sufficient to improve the drastic EU situation hitting agriculture markets.

The organisation’s secretary-general, Pekk Pesonen, said: “There are a few positive elements in the package but it falls short of our expectations. It includes very few measures to help manage the market or deal with the increasing volatility and short term problems. We welcome the fact that EU promotion schemes have been boosted and the commission will speed up work to find new markets but this takes time. The commission knows there is a huge crisis in the sector but is refusing to treat it.”

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