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Straujuma calls for abolishing sugar quotas and simplifying system of direct payments

Laimdota Straujuma. Photo: Lita Krone.
 RIGA, Nov 29 - During a European Union Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting in Brussels on November 28-29, Agriculture Minister Laimdota Straujuma emphasized Latvia's demand no to extend the sugar quota system after 2015 and urged to simplify the bloc's system of direct payments.

The EU previously decided that the sugar quota regime will continue until 2015, and the sugar industry was restructured in accordance with this decision. Now, some member states want to change the rules of the game, calling for the quotas to be left unchanged. The abolishment of the sugar quota system will improve the competitiveness of the bloc's sugar industry and benefit consumers, pointed out the minister.

At the moment, 11 member states and the European Commission support abolishing the sugar quota regime.

The Council also discussed the Common Agricultural Policy within the framework of the bloc's multi-annual budget for 2014-2020.

Even though it is currently not clear which changes will affect direct payments, Straujuma pointed out that the payments should become fairer after 2016, and their payments system should be as simple as possible.

As reported, Latvia wants Brussels to introduce fair direct payments to farmers, stipulating that the lowest payments must constitute at least 80 percent of the average amount of the EU direct payments already in 2014. At the moment, Latvian farmers receive the smallest direct payments in the EU, LVL 63 per hectare or less, while the average figure in Europe is EUR 266 or LVL 186 per hectare.

On November 23, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy offered Baltic farmers EUR 196 (LVL 138) per hectare or approximately 80 percent of the bloc's average level of direct payments by 2020. However, the Baltic countries demand fair direct payments already in 2014.

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