1. The Joint Committee has considered the proposals made by the Commission for
(1) Council Regulation concerning export refunds on certain agricultural products (9513/79),
(2) Council Regulation concerning aid for the use of butter in industrial fish preparations (9603/79) and
(3) Council Decision adopting a concerted action project on the effects of thermal processing and distribution on the quality and nutritive value of food (5148/79).
2. These proposals were examined in detail for the Joint Committee by its Sub-Committee on Agricultural and Fishery Matters under the Chairmanship of Deputy Michael Smith. The Joint Committee is indebted to Deputy Smith and his Sub-Committee for their work. Apart from consulting the Government Departments concerned the Sub-Committee also sought the views of the Confederation of Irish Industry on all three proposals, those of the Irish Farmers’ Association in regard to items (1) and (3), those of the Irish Dairy Industries Association in regard to item (2) and those of An Foras Talúntais and the National Board for Science and Technology in regard to item (3).
3. The Joint Committee wishes to thank most sincerely the bodies which made their views on the proposals available. They proved to be of considerable assistance to the Committee.
B. EXPORT REFUNDS
4. For the export of agricultural products to third countries financial assistance in the form of export refunds is necessary to compensate for the difference between the higher Community prices and the lower world market prices. Such assistance is necessary not merely for the export of the basic agricultural products listed in Annex II to the EEC Treaty but also for processed products when their ingredients include a basic product. The rules for the granting of export refunds for such processed products and the criteria for fixing the amount of such refunds are contained in Council Regulation (EEC) No. 2682/72 which has been amended on several occasions. The Commission’s proposal is that it now be replaced by a new Regulation consolidating and clarifying the existing texts and effecting certain technical amendments.
5. The Joint Committee is advised that no change in principle is involved in the draft Regulation as compared with the present rules but a number of technical amendments are proposed. One change proposed would make cheese as a component of products not covered by Annex II to the Treaty (e.g. cheesecake, biscuits) eligible for export refunds. Another concerns payment for official analysis. If an exporter is unaware of the precise ingredient of the goods he is exporting, he can have an official analysis carried out and the proposed Regulation requires him to pay for it.
6. The Annexes to Council Regulation (EEC) No. 2682/72 list the products involved and amendments have been necessary in these from time to time to ensure conformity with the Annexes to the regulations on the common organisation of the markets in certain agricultural products. The new regulation, if adopted, would enable the Commission to make this type of adjustment in future.
Views of the Joint Committee
7. The Commission proposal to consolidate and clarify existing rules should, if adopted, have administrative advantages and the Joint Committee has no objection to it. It is advised that such changes as are proposed should have no adverse effects as far as Ireland is concerned. As far as the proposal to make cheese, as an element of processed products, eligible for export refund is concerned the Committee is informed that there is no significant Irish trade at present in such products but no doubt, if the proposal is accepted, the possibility of the development of such a trade will be enhanced.
C. AID FOR USE OF BUTTER IN FISH PREPARATIONS
8. The proposal provides for an aid for butter used in industrial fish preparations the objective being to provide an additional outlet for butter disposal. The Joint Committee is informed that the original proposal has been modified to provide for aid for a 2-year experimental period during which time the Commission would present a report to the Council on its effect and its possible extension both in time and scope.
9. At present aid is paid (either through aid for butter from aided private storage or low prices sales of butter from intervention) for butter for a number of uses. Butter used in the manufacture of concentrated butter receives an aid of 1,700 ECU/tonne approx. Butter for use in the pastry, ice-cream and foodstuffs industry is subject to aid fixed by monthly tender. Current rates of aid are about 1,788 ECU/tonne for pastry products and 1,300 ECU/tonne for ice-cream.
10. The present proposal would extend aid estimated at 1,800 ECU/tonne to butter used in the manufacture of fish, crustacean or mollusc-based cooked dishes. However, the aid would apply to butter from the market and not necessarily to butter from private and public stock. Use of the measure is estimated at 3,000 tonnes per year, the cost being calculated at 5.8m. eua per annum.
Views of the Joint Committee
11. Having regard to the present butter market situation the Joint Committee believes that any proposal aimed at facilitating the disposal of butter surpluses on the internal market merits sympathetic consideration. The Committee is informed that it is not likely that much use would be made in Ireland of the aid proposed by the Commission if it were available but it should provide for an additional albeit modest outlet for butter and reduce expenditure on storage. The Committee therefore supports the proposal but it is informed that there are objections by a number of Member States partly on grounds of costs.
D. CO-ORDINATION OF RESEARCH INTO QUALITY AND NUTRITIVE VALUE OF OOD
12. The Council Decision proposed by the Commission would authorise the Commission to implement a concerted action project. If adopted the Commission would co-ordinate over a period of three years the research being carried out in the Member States into the effects of thermal processing and distribution on the nutritive value of food, priority being given to the effects of freezing and preservation by heat treatment.
13. The Community would also co-ordinate the Community research with the research being carried out by non-Member States in the field of Scientific and Technical Research (COST). A co-ordinating Committee would be established through the agency of which information on the research results would be exchanged among all the participating States.
14. The project would be supplementary to an existing COST project investigating the effects of processing on the physical properties of food.
15. Ireland would be responsible for research in the areas of milk, fruit and vegetables, cereals, fish, meat and nutrition. The estimated cost for all participating countries (including some non-Member States) is 12 million ua. The cost for the Community is estimated at 287,600 ua. Research institutes throughout the EEC have indicated their willingness to participate in the project.
Views of the Joint Committee
16. The adoption of the Commission’s proposal would provide an opportunity for international co-operation in the study of an aspect of food processing which is very important for the food industry in this country. The Joint Committee understands that a number of Irish organisations would participate in the project and it believes that the exchange of ideas and research findings consequent on this participation should have a beneficial effect on the quality and range of Irish expertise in the field of thermal processing of foodstuffs. The Committee is informed that the research proposed is not new and that the research institutions of the Community are already familiar with the programme content. It trusts, therefore, that there will be no delay in adopting the project.
(Signed) ALEXIS FITZGERALD,
Chairman of the Joint Committee.
19th December, 1979.