Little sign of progress in farm talks

 

Ministers at the EU Farm talks have been engaged in a series of bilateral meetings with little sign of movement on the substantive issues.

A German compromise proposal on cereals followed the example of their papers on beef and milk on Monday, in leaving intact the substance of Commission proposals for massive price cuts - 20 per cent in the case of cereals. Few see it as a basis for settlement.

But the brief paper did bring some comfort to the Irish in providing special recognition for maize production. Previous proposals would have seen increased maize production eroding the general cereals quotas.

Some 6,000 hectares of maize are grown in the Republic.

The Minister for Agriculture, Mr Walsh, said the price proposal was still far too steep and urged the German presidency to increase provision for setaside from nought to 5 per cent.

The national grain committee chairman of the IFA, Mr Ruaidhri Deasy, who expressed similar concerns to the Minister, said the maize proposals were an improvement and criticised proposals to put back EU payments from October to January.

Following a second bilateral with the German presidency within 24 hours Mr Walsh was last night to hold meetings with the French, Austrians, British and Spaniards. Although the British have diametrically opposed views to the Irish on the thrust of the reforms, the Secretary of State for Agriculture, Mr Brown, said they would be able to make common cause on beef, particularly the support for extensive farming methods. "We are friends and neighbours, so we have much to discuss," he said.