• Short Summary

    The food price negotiations within the European Economic Community are on again this weekend (28 April), but they appear to be the most difficult in the EEC's short history.

  • Description

    GV British shopping street scene

    SV Showing prices of fruit, vegetables & fish (4 shots)

    GV & CU Shop window showing posters with price reductions (5 shots)

    CU & GV Holt sign at German/Belgian border & parked trucks

    GV PAN Belgian village

    GV Belgian shoppers in street

    GV & CU INT. Supermarket showing food, vegetables etc (4 shots)

    GV & SV Cows being brought in for milking (3 shots)

    GV Cows feeding while in milking stalls

    CU & GV Milk entering churn

    CU & GV Boxes of butter stacked in cold store

    GV Butter loaded on to lorry by hoist lift truck

    Initials ESP/0133 ESP/0135

    Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved

    Background: The food price negotiations within the European Economic Community are on again this weekend (28 April), but they appear to be the most difficult in the EEC's short history.

    The original deadline for the 1973/74 food prices was April 1. It's now May 1. The agriculture ministers from the nine countries are faced with a new set of problems which threaten to block complete agreement. These price talks are the first involving the new member countries of Britain, Ireland and Denmark, and each has brought its own new problems.

    The commission is the Common Market's executive body. It wants to end the system o 'border tax' on food by increasing all prices by at least 2.76 per cent, or the amount of revaluation which recently caused upheavals on the world's money markets and cut the profits of farmers.

    Germany's minister, Mr. Ertl, has refused to revoke the border tax, and Britain and Italy, both fighting inflation, want no price rises this year. But France and Ireland want even higher prices than those being suggested by the commission.

    In a nutshell, the commission in proposing hefty price rises in the guaranteed price of beef, and smaller rises for pig meat, rye and milk, and 2.76 per cent all round. The commission's members are more or less divided into two camps. Some are protecting the consumer, others are protecting the farmer. The negotiations are aimed at finding a middle road.

    But while the EEC's farm ministers tackle another round to decide this year's food prices, the Common Agricultural Policy has once again been thrown into slight confusion, and again, the cause is butter.

    Four hundred thousand tons of it are stockpiled around Europe to keep the high price in Europe stable, but the Soviet Union still manages to buy 200 thousand tons of it at a quarter of the price paid by a housewife in Europe. It's this imbalanced system that's added to the delay of a decision on this year's new food prices. It was to have been the first of April. Now it's the first of May.

    SYNOPSIS: In London, the great supermarket stroll is costing more and more...and a lot of it has happened since Britain joined the European Common Market. Just how much more it's cost shoppers is hard to say, but prices in London have climbed away, as they have all over Britain, Ireland and Denmark. This weekend, Farm Ministers from the nine Common Market countries are meeting in Luxembourg to decide just how much further the prices should be allowed to climb for the rest of the year. Some of the ministers want more price rises, mainly for beef and milk products, but Britain and Italy want the prices to go no higher. France and Germany, and to some extent, Holland, have other ideas. They don't think the rises are high enough yet.

    There's another problem too...border tax. The lorry drivers carrying food between Germany and Belgium have a special form to fill in. It's to assess a tax that's levied on all food imported from other Common Market countries. The tax began after recent upheavals of the world's money markets, which in turn threw Europe's currencies out of line. The tax is supposed to compensate farmers for what they lost through revaluation. The commission wants to end the tax and increase all prices by two-point-seven per cent, but Germany won't agree.

    The loser - as always - is the customer. Shopping in Brussels, the de-facto capital of the Common Market, is like everywhere else. It's expensive and getting worse. Some of the ministers meeting in Luxembourg have the interests of the farmer at heart. Others are thinking about the consumer. The Commission's job is to do what's best for Europe. So far, the Ministers have failed completely, and there's not much time left.

    But meat and vegetables are only part of the problem. The Common Market's Agricultural policy has another weighty difficulty with butter. So far, the dairy farmers of the Common Market have produced four-hundred-thousand tons more butter than anyone in Europe can eat.

    The famous Common Market butter mountain has outgrown its storage space. European farmers get more than twice as much money for this butter than British farmers. The reason for this...to give farmers a better deal, but the Common Market had to decide between damping it or selling to the highest bidder. The Soviet Union bought half the surplus for less than European housewife pays for the same butter.

    The commission is suggesting slicing 11 per cent off the price of butter, but there's pressure to carry the cuts even further.

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