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Kovács says timing of new maize intervention requirements unfair

EU tax and customs commissioner László Kovács on Thursday said he supported Hungary's case against the EU regarding the introduction of stricter quality requirements for maize.

Although in agreement with the legality of establishing the requirements, he said it was unfair that they should be introduced immediately before the harvest season. A week earlier, Hungary turned to the European court with a request to invalidate the new requirements, shortly after they were officially announced. The new requirements would exclude much of the maize grown by Hungarian farmers, because of the varieties of corn they grow and the weather conditions in Hungary.

Under the new requirements, a hectoliter of intervention maize must weigh no more than 71-73kg. Moisture content must not exceed 13%, as compared to 14.5% earlier, the maximum proportion of broken grains must not exceed 5%, compared to 10% earlier, and the maximum proportion of grains overheated during drying must not be more than 0.5%, as against 3% earlier. Brussels said the new regulation would ensure that maize submitted for intervention would be suitable for long-term storage.

Hungarian farmers offered some 8 million tons of wheat and maize for intervention in 2004 and 2005. Intervention stock has since been reduced to around 5.5 million tons, most of it maize. Kovács said he had made a request at a European Commission meeting on October 18 to delay the introduction of the stricter requirements for another year, but agriculture commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel dismissed the request. (Mti-Eco)