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European Commission - Press release
€ 113 million for the 2012 most deprived persons programme
Brussels, 20 June 2011 - The total value of funds for the 2012 programme for the supply of food for the most deprived persons in the European Union has been set at €113 million, with the precise allocations fixed per Member State [see annexes]. This is a sharp reduction from the near € 500 million awarded in recent years because of a ruling by the Court of Justice in April stating that the current regulation requires the food covered by this scheme to come from EU public stocks. Therefore, the 2012 scheme is exclusively based on all the available existing intervention stocks (162 000 tonnes of cereals and 54 000 tonnes of Skimmed Milk Powder in intervention).
The Commission foresaw this potential problem and first proposed to change the scheme in 2008. Despite support from the European Parliament, this remained deadlocked in Council. With a view to moving the dossier forward, the Commission came forward with a revised proposal last September. Unfortunately this also remains blocked in Council.
Although the EU has, on average, among the highest living standards in the world, some people are unable to feed themselves adequately. An estimated 43 million people in the EU are at risk of food poverty, meaning that they cannot afford a proper meal every second day. The most deprived persons programme supports the provision of food to these individuals or especially vulnerable families who find themselves in difficulties. In 2009 over 440 000 tonnes of products were distributed to 18 million people in 19 Member States. Charity organisations and NGOs count on the EU participation to help these people in need. It is therefore crucial that a solution is found quickly to overcome the existing problems and to be able to use the available money.
Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Dacian Cioloș, underlines the importance of this scheme. "We remain politically committed to this scheme – and its importance is recognised by many charity organisations and NGOs around the EU. We must therefore find a way of continuing the scheme in the medium to long term which is clearly in line with the legal situation. The easiest solution would be for member states to agree the proposal that is on the table and already has political support from the European Parliament."
The EU’s “Food Distribution programme for the Most Deprived Persons of the Community” (MDP) has been in place since December 1987, when the Council adopted the rules for releasing public intervention stocks of agricultural products to Member States wishing to use them as food aid for the most deprived persons of the Community.
To ensure continuity of supply, in the mid-1990s the MDP was modified to make it possible to supplement intervention stocks with market purchases. This was not intended as a long term solution but one that could be called upon when there were insufficient supplies of certain products. The basis of the programme remained intervention, “until the stocks have been run down to a normal level”. Ongoing reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) have gradually returned intervention to a safety net role.
The MDP is funded by the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund (EAGF). Its budget has increased from slightly less than € 100 million in 1987 to € 500 million in 2009 onwards. Participation in the programme is voluntary; in 2012 twenty Member States are taking part.
Each year, Member States wishing to participate communicate their needs to the Commission, in terms of quantities of the products available in intervention stocks. Based on this and Eurostat data on poverty the Commission defines a budget ceiling for each participating Member State and a list of products to be withdrawn from public stocks or purchased on the market, using the budget allocated.
When intervention stocks are supplied, tenders are launched for the conversion, or exchange, of these commodities (e.g. wheat) into processed products of the same "family" (e.g. flour or pasta). These products are distributed as food aid to the most deprived, either in the form of food baskets or as meals in centres run by charities and other competent bodies, designated by the Member States. The MDP supports the provision of food to individuals or especially vulnerable families who find themselves in difficulties.
Successive reforms of the CAP have led to a much more market-oriented system, with much lower levels of intervention stocks. Recognising that this could become a problem for the Aid for the Needy scheme, the Commission first published a proposal to adjust the scheme (including measures to make it easier to access products from the open market) in 2008. However, this became deadlocked in the Council, with opposition from 6 member states.
In September 2010, Commissioner presented a revised proposal (also to take account of the Treaty of Lisbon) - see IP/10/1141. However this remains deadlocked in Council.
The European Parliament provided an "Opinion" on the 2008 proposal in 2009, There is no EP position (yet) on the Sept 2010 proposal.
The Court of Justice ruled on 13 April 2011 on a complaint brought by Germany against the Aid for the Needy scheme in 2009, ruling against the Commission and basically stating that the majority of food supplies under the scheme should come from public storage.
The annual plans are usually adopted in September. The reason for this "earlier" adoption of the annual plan is, in the light of the dramatic cut in resources, to give member states and charities some additional time so that they can try to find alternative sources of food.
For documents and more information on the food distribution programme for the most deprived persons, please see:
Annex 1: Financial resources made available to implement the 2012 plan in each Member State
Annex 2: Quantity of each type of product to be taken out of Community intervention stocks for distribution in the Member States under the 2012 plan
ANNEX I: Financial resources made available to implement the 2012 plan in each Member State (in EUR)
ANNEX II: Quantity of each type of product to be withdrawn from EU intervention stocks for distribution in each Member State (in tonnes)