Export refunds facing the chop

THE EUROPEAN Commission has unveiled imminent plans to abolish the European Union (EU) system of pre-financing export refunds for food, widely used in the past to manipulate EU beef sales.

Because of this, EU agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer-Boel has told the EU Council of Ministers that the system would be replaced with direct beef export controls.

She said refunds were less important now the EU was a net beef importer. Pre-financed refunds for cereal exports have been the other main use of a complex subsidy system, criticised by the EU financial watchdog, the Court of Auditors, for inefficiency and poor transparency.

Fischer Boel said there would probably be a six-month phase out period. France and Ireland are opposing the move: 30% of French and 90% of Irish bovine exports benefit from the scheme. They have argued at the council the system's efficiency has recently "been considerably improved" and was now "working well".

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