EU offers farmers $300 million for E. coli crisis
Pressed hard by outraged farmers, the European Union farm chief on Wednesday increased his offer of compensation for the E. coli outbreak to ?210 million ($306 million).
EU Farm Commissioner Dacian Ciolos had initially proposed ?150 million ($219 million) to the struggling farmers, who have tons of unwanted produce rotting in fields and warehouses as Europeans shun vegetables, fearing they are contaminated with a deadly strain of E. coli.
But under pressure from big producers like Spain, Italy and France, he was forced to offer more help. The 27-nation bloc is expected to make a final decision on Tuesday.
The package covers the period from when the farm crisis began late last month till the end of June, in the hopes that the scare will have abated by then.
"We don't know how things are going to evolve. We cannot predict," Ciolos said. "At the end of June we will see where we stand."
The proposed aid still falls far short of the losses that European farmers have estimated - over ?400 million ($600 million) a week - and farmers are expected to demand even better terms.
Ciolos said he came up with a better offer Wednesday because he included zucchini and peppers on top of his initial offer for cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce. He said the funds would be covered by the existing EU farm budget.