Farmers protest at Berlin food fair

Sat, Jan 23, 1999, 00:00

The world's biggest food fair opened in Berlin yesterday amid protests by German farmers against plans to reform the Common Agricultural Policy. The farmers interrupted a walkabout through Green Week by Bonn's Agriculture Minister, Mr KarlHeinz Funke, and presented him with instruments of torture.

The farmers said that the instruments, which they asked Mr Funke to pass on to the EU Agriculture Minister, Mr Franz Fischler, symbolised their fear that the reform plans would enslave those who work on the land.

More than 1,500 exhibitors from 57 countries are present at Green Week, which has been an annual event in the German capital since before the Second World War. Ireland has had a presence at the fair for 27 years and, although fewer Irish companies are exhibiting this year, Ms Louise Coughlan of Bord Bia insists that Green Week remains an important showcase for Irish food and drink products.

"500,000 people pass through this show and the Irish stand has become a very popular and well-known feature of it. Berlin also has a growing political importance as the German government moves here and that makes the fair important for Irish agriculture too," she said.

Guinness and Murphy's are running bars at the Irish stand and Bord Bia is operating an Irish steak house and, for the first time, an Irish shop selling a variety of food products.