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EU agrees to scrap corn subsidies before Romania joins bloc - extended

The European Union agreed to scrap payments for putting corn into public storage in an effort to cut ballooning stocks before Romania, the region's second-biggest producer, joins the bloc next month.

Since November, the EU applied tighter criteria for accepting corn, also known as maize, into stocks as supplies built up to 5.1 million metric tons, or two-thirds of all grains stored at public expense. The bloc pays producers to remove surplus crops, meat or milk powder to balance the 25-nation market while avoiding a repeat of the wine „lakes” and butter „mountains” that plagued markets in the 1980's. Corn stocks have been growing since 10 new members joined the EU in May 2004 and Hungary now accounts for 93% of the total. With Romania, Europe's No. 2 corn producer after France, set to join the bloc January 1, the surplus may treble within six years unless it acts, the commission says. „Farmers should base their decisions on market signals rather than simply growing cereals for public purchase,” European Farm Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel said in an e-mailed statement from Brussels today. The European Parliament and EU governments still need to approve the plan before corn planting begins in the Q2.

Until the 2003/2004 marketing year, the EU was a net importer of corn, the commission says, with no intervention stocks. „Today, maize has become the main problem for the intervention system,” the commission said in its regulation. Ending the measure will save the EU €617.8 million ($810 million) in the six years to 2014, it says. Corn for January delivery gained 50 cents to €155 per metric ton on the Paris exchange yesterday. The EU sets a guaranteed minimum price of €101.31 a ton for putting the crop into storage at the start of the marketing year in July. (Bloomberg)