Spain rejects €150m e. coli compensation
SPAIN has rejected a €150m (£135m) aid package for farmers hit by the e. coli outbreak proposed by the European Commission today.
Producers of salad vegetables across the EU have seen sales plummet, particularly in Spain after Spanish cucumbers were initially wrongly
Spanish growers alone claim to have suffered losses of 200m euro per week as a result of falling sales and export bans imposed by some countries, including Russia. The Spanish Government has threatened to use for damages if its growers are not compensated for between 90-100 per cent of market price losses, she their entire losses.
During an emergency meeting of EU agriculture Ministers, Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos proposed a €150m compensation for affected farmers. Speaking before the meeting, he said the farmers would receive around 30 per cent of the value of vegetables they have been unable to sell.
The plan was immediately rejected as insufficient by Spain, a position backed by France.
“No, Spain does not see it as sufficient,” the country’s agriculture minister, Rosa Aguilar, said.
Geroge Lyon, Liberal Democrat MEP for Scotland also called on the EU to help stabilise the market, warning it was in ‘free fall’ throughout Europe.
He said: “Consumer confidence will not return to the vegetable market until the source is identified and steps taken to reassure people that European vegetables are safe to eat.
“The reaction of the German authorities has so far have been leaden-footed. Therefore it is vital that they seek assistance from across Europe to get to grip with the crisis and the Commission should be ready to coordinate that response.
“The Commissioner must also take immediate steps to stabilise the market which is currently in free fall. The €150million aid package announced today will only go so far.
“Once the crisis is under control an independent and transparent investigation must be undertaken to establish what went wrong so that we can plug any holes there are in our food safety systems in Europe.”
The outbreak is now said to have resulted in 21 deaths. A figure of 22 had been quoted by officials but they now say the death of one woman in Bavaria could no longer be attributed to E.coli.
In addition, more than 2,200 people are estimated to have fallen ill as a result of the outbreak.
The current focus of the investigation into its origin is on bean sprouts supplied by a German organic farm, in Uelzen, south of Hamburg, where many of the cases have been recorded.
However, of 40 samples examined from the farm, the first 23 tested negative, with further results not expected until Wednesday at the earliest.
This has raised the prospect that the source of the outbreak might never be formally identified.
German health officials have now said they believe the outbreak may have peaked.
EU Health Commissioner John Dalli told the European Parliament the outbreak is ‘limited geographically to the area surrounding the city of Hamburg’, meaning there is no reason to take action on a European level.
He criticised the German authorities for releasing false information on the source of infection ‘not justified by the science’.
“That creates fears and problems for our food producers. We must be careful not to make premature conclusions,” he said.
Speaking in the debate, Scotish MEP George Lyon said the outbreak was having a ‘disastrous effect on consumer confidence and the vegetable market across Europe’ and accused the German authorities of being ‘leaden-footed’ in their response..
He said the proposed €150m aid package announced today would only go ‘so far’ in stabilising the market.