Brussels / BE. (eu) European Union agriculture ministers this week approved the Commission´s proposal to set at zero percent the obligatory set-aside rate for autumn 2007 and spring 2008 sowings. The change comes in response to the increasingly tight situation on the cereals market. It should increase next year´s cereals harvest by at least ten million tonnes.
In the EU-27, a lower than expected harvest in 2006 (265,5 million tonnes) led to tightening supplies at the end of marketing year 2006/2007 and to historically high prices. Intervention stocks have shrunk from 14 million tonnes at the beginning of 2006/2007 to around one million tonnes now. The future of the set-aside system will form part of the debate to be kicked off by the Communication on the CAP «Health Check» in November. This will also address the issue of how to retain the environmental benefits which set-aside has brought. Setting the rate at zero does not oblige farmers to cultivate all their land. They can continue with voluntary set-aside and apply environmental schemes.
Mariann Fischer Boel, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, said: «I am delighted that the European Parliament and EU farm ministers were able to take such a quick decision. This will allow farmers to plan in good time for next year´s harvest. It will hopefully boost production by at least ten million tonnes and release some of the pressure on the market. Now we are looking ahead to the CAP Health Check where we will look at whether set-aside is still an appropriate tool. Of course we want to ensure that we retain the environmental benefits it has brought» (full text).