Salad growers lament E. coli compensation package despite early payments delivery

UK fresh produce growers affected by the E. coli outbreak in Germany who applied for the exceptional aid scheme in June have been paid two months ahead of the deadline.

But despite the early payment, many growers were disappointed with the amount they received.

The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) has processed aid totalling £566,114.21 to 22 claimants for withdrawn or non-harvested lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet peppers and courgettes.

The timing of this scheme is in contrast to the delays many grower members of producer organisations experienced this year after the RPA suspended its payments while it carried out its review of the EU's fresh fruit and vegetables aid scheme.

The RPA's deadline for the exception aid scheme was 1 October 2011, but all UK applicants had been paid by mid August. Eligible applicants also had their claims met in full.

An RPA representative said: "Growers had been warned their payments could be scaled down if the total value of claims by member states exceeded the EUR210m set aside for the scheme. In the event, the commission paid out in full on the EUR227m applied for."

But one Lea Valley grower, who did not want to be named, said growers in the region were still bitterly disappointed. "The whole compensation package was wrong," he complained.

"When it was put together it was based only on the product that was thrown away - not on what was sold at a loss. We wanted to be paid on food prices as well. Brussels got it badly wrong."

Yorkshire-based Humber Growers director Roger Sayer added: "We are relieved to have been paid the money, but it only covers about 5.5 per cent of our actual loss. This has been a season that we would rather forget and the loss makes it hard to make big investments in the near future.

"But it was a one-off event, so there's no reason to have one's confidence for next year knocked because of this."

Exceptional aid claims Technicalities

British salad growers who lost money as a result of the E. coli scare were not able to claim for compensation from the EU's EUR227m fund from the time the crisis started at the end of May.

They were only able to claim for compensation for produce dumped from 18 to 30 June - and not from 26 May when the crisis started.

This is because Defra had to put in place the necessary systems required by the European authorities to make the scheme possible, including a designated authority able to regulate dumped produce.

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Professor Geoffrey Dixon

GreenGene International chair Geoff Dixon on the business of fresh produce production

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