Possible change in funding for food aid
On 20 September agriculture ministers discussed the programme for distributing free food to the most deprived persons in the EU. A ruling by the European Court of Justice has declared the current practice of buying farm produce for the scheme illegal. Ministers have not reached agreement yet but the Polish Presidency is working to find a compromise.
According to the original legislation, products for distribution should come from surplus agricultural stocks, the so-called intervention stocks known in the eighties as "butter mountains", "milk lakes", etc. However, products could be purchased on the open market for the purposes of the scheme where there is a temporary shortfall in the availability of that product in intervention stocks, or where transfer would be required in small quantities from the intervention stocks of a member state other than the one in which the product is to be distributed. With the reform of the common agricultural policy, these stocks have been run down. To help people in need, it has become necessary to buy food on the market.
The ruling by the European Court of Justice from 13 April 2011 has annulled the provisions allowing this market purchase. The Commission has therefore adopted a regulation cutting spending for the programme in 2012 from 480 million originally planned to 113.5 million euros, corresponding to the remaining intervention stocks. Today, these stocks comprise only cereals and skimmed milk powder. Given market prospects, it is unlikely that there will be any intervention stocks to allow the programme to run in 2013.
The Commission is also expected to present a proposal that will make it possible to put the European food aid programme on a permanent footing, in line with EU law, for 2014.
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