The Soviet Union seems poised to pull off one of the great agricultural buys of the century - 75,000 tonnes of butter from European Economic Community (EEC) warehouses at a fraction of its market price.
The Soviet Union seems poised to pull off one of the great agricultural buys of the century - 75,000 tonnes of butter from European Economic Community (EEC) warehouses at a fraction of its market price. The scenario seems ludicrous, but it is possible because of the inequities in the EEC's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
SYNOPSIS: This is only a tiny fraction of the vast surpluses of butter stored in EEC warehouses across Europe. Heavily subsidised, and overproduced, this butter is unsaleable in Europe, hence the decision to unload some of the unwanted stocks onto the Soviet market. Some EEC members, notably Britain, want the sale stopped - and Europe's entire agricultural policy reviewed.
Both Italy and Britain are dissatisfied with their "deal" within the Common Market, and this week both country's Prime Ministers are meeting in Rome to work out a combined strategy for next year's EEC summit in Dublin. But it's butter that evokes the strongest emotion at the grassroots level. The price that the EEC is reported to be asking from the Soviet Union is less than one third of the price most European consumers pay for the product.
A set of circumstances which, although it may make economic sense, certainly won't win any votes for the EEC's Council of Agricultural Ministers. And one European member called it "the single most objectionable achievement of the EEC to date."
For the Soviet Union, it could mean another 'butter coup'. John Darby asked the EEC's new Agricultural Committee chairman, Sir Henry Plumb, what he would like to see done with the 'butter mountains'.