Producer Organisations' payments suspended by Rural Payments Agency following EU judgement

Defra's Rural Payments Agency (RPA) has suspended all payments to UK Producer Organisations (POs) pending the establishment of a new UK policy on the issue of shared facilities in order to comply with EU law.

Shared facilities — such as packing and marketing — have been a bone of contention for a couple of years now as the EU authorities have not agreed with the way they are interpreted by some countries, such as France.

The French have just lost their appeal against a multi-million Euro fine for not complying with the shared facilities rules — and RPA's decision follows the Court of First Instance (CFI) Judgement handed down to the French authorities.

The news was sent by letter from the RPA to all fruit and vegetable POs in the UK.

Once the new policy is established the RPA will be checking all POs to check which ones comply with it and what measures need to be put in place for those which do not comply.

POs are being asked to supply details of the facilities available to members within the group by the 13 November.

Defra has also called a meeting of POs for the 24 November where it aims to provide clarification on its decisions, provide an update on the policy as well as a timetable for action.

The NFU's chief horticultural advisor Phil Hudson said: "The NFU's view is that it is the speed of resolution to this issue which will be the key to preventing long term damage to the role of co-operation in the fruit and vegetable industry. The CFI judgement represents another challenge to the operation of the scheme in the UK and the perception by growers towards being members of a PO."

For more on this story see next week's Grower.


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