Summary:In the wake of Belgium's announcement, on July 1, concerning the findings of test on milk samples, the European Commission might shortly decide to relax restrictions on dairy product exports, in the light of the verdict issued by the EU's Standing Veterinary Committee, which was due to meet on July 6/7. On July 4, farmers affected by the dioxin-in-food crisis went to demonstrate in the streets of Brussels to demand compensation that matched the scale of the crisis. The Belgian authorities have agreed to release Euro 157.5 million, in the form of emergency measures, to offset destruction costs and provide direct support to ailing companies in the farming and agri-foods industries. The European Commission is still waiting to be formally notified about this system, which has to be examined the light of EU state aid rules.

Nearly 5,000 farmers took to the streets of Brussels on July 4. Their main concern was the requirements to refund the interest-free loans the Belgian Government is planning to hand out to relieve the financial crisis agri-foods companies worst hit by the dioxin crisis. Farmers pressed the Belgian and European authorities to take emergency action (costed at Euro 750 million), whereas Jean-Luc Dehaene's Government, which has been managing day-to-day business since he resigned, has agreed to release solely Euro 157.5 million, in three instalments, to help out companies whose future has been left uncertain since the start of the crisis. Belgium is all the more hard put to provide the money to companies, because the European Union seems reluctant, particularly in the absence of any legal justification as in the case of the mad cow crisis and swine fever, to crack open the Community's treasure chest.

National crisis management plan.

Measures decided up by Belgium cover arrangements for destroying animals and derivative products. The Government had budgeted for Euro 57.5 million to bear the costs of slaughtering and incinerating the cattle and contaminated animal products that could not be sold during sequestration (animals that are too heavy, expiry dates exceeded). Farms that have been subject to attachments are being offered interest-free, refundable loans (up to Euro 75 million), calculated on the basis of 80% of the sales price for animals or products. Non-farm companies with a certificates from the Ministry of Agriculture might also be able to receive refundable loans on the same terms as previously (Euro 25 million...

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