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Coveney attends Special EU Agriculture Council on E.Coli and calls for restoration of confidence for Consumers and in market operations

Addressing an Emergency meeting of the Council of Agriculture Ministers which took place in Luxembourg yesterday to deal with the food safety and market implications resulting from the E-Coli outbreak in Germany, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney offered the condolences of the Irish people to the German authorities and said that it was "important to restore confidence for consumers and in market operations."

Minister Coveney said that any compensation to food producers needed to be "quick, effective, easy to implement and available to all affected producers."  The Minister welcomed Commissioner Ciolos' initiative in providing a fully-funded EU scheme, but said that the initial compensation levels proposed were not sufficient. Mr Coveney also called on the Commission to provide incentives to restore confidence in the market and to take appropriate action in relation to addressing trade restrictions by non-EU countries.

The EU Food Safety Commissioner, John Dalli, provided up-to-date information on the investigations into the source of the outbreak. He said the Commission was sparing no effort to find the cause and was working in cooperation with national food safety authorities and all crisis management networks had been activated. Commissioner Dalli confirmed that the epicentre of the outbreak had been identified as Hamburg in northern Germany but that its source had not been identified as yet. However, while cases had been diagnosed in other EU member States, Switzerland and the US, the Commissioner called for renewed efforts to be made to identify the source and asked for the full cooperation and solidarity of Member States in this task.

Agriculture Commissioner Ciolos announced that he would be introducing a scheme of assistance to fruit and vegetable producers affected by the collapse in certain product markets. The scheme would be fully funded by the EU. It would be worth €150 million and would offer compensation at a rate of 30 per cent of the market value for cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, courgettes and peppers. There was a full debate in the Council in which there were repeated calls from Ministers for the level of compensation to be raised.

Following the debate, Commissioner Ciolos said he would take account of the views of the Council in terms of an improved package of compensation which, he said, needs to be substantial, balanced and appropriate to the level of the crisis. A detailed Commission proposal will be made in the next few days to allow for urgent implementation of the improved compensation measures.

Date Released: 08 June 2011