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The Globe and Mail

EU to offer aid to E. coli-affected farmers

The European Union will propose offering at least €150-million ($219-million U.S.) in compensation to farmers affected by the E. coli outbreak, the European commissioner for agriculture said on Tuesday.

Arriving for a meeting of EU agriculture ministers in Luxembourg, Dacian Ciolos said the money would go to growers of fresh vegetables such as tomatoes, lettuces and cucumbers whose businesses have been affected by the outbreak of the disease in Germany last month.

"I'll start our proposition at €150-million," Mr. Ciolos told reporters, but indicated that the figure was likely to go higher and was just a starting point for discussions.

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Spain has already estimated its own growers have lost €200-million in sales in the week since Germany initially blamed the outbreak on Spanish cucumbers. The source of the infection, which has killed 22 people so far, has not yet been identified.

EU fresh produce association Freshfel Europe said the latest estimates put the weekly economic damage at about €80-million in the Netherlands, €20-million in Germany, €4-million in Belgium and €3-million in Portugal, not to mention the €200-million in Spain.

As well as a headline figure for any compensation, EU agriculture ministers are expected to haggle over how any sums would be paid out and to whom.

Any decision on Tuesday is likely to be taken only in principle, with the details worked out later, EU officials have said.

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