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The scheme to distribute free food to the most deprived
persons in the Community was launched as an emergency measure
in the exceptionally cold winter of 1986/87, when surplus
stocks of agricultural produce were given to Member State
charities for distribution to people in need. The measure
was subsequently formalised and based on intervention
stocks. More recently, as agricultural surpluses have
fallen, the programme has been supported by a direct
As the ongoing reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) increasingly ensures that intervention stocks are a thing of the past, the scheme is undergoing a review in 2008 to determine its future. The views of concerned charities, government services and NGOs, as well as the general public, were sought in the course of the assessment process.
Over the years, the "Most Deprived" food aid scheme has been responsible for ensuring that products based on beef, olive oil, butter, milk powder, rice, cereals and sugar have been distributed to people in need in the European Union. Before the reform of the CAP, stocks of these products were usually plentiful and stored in warehouses around Europe at the taxpayer's expense.
As a result of the reform process that the CAP has undergone since the early 1990s, large surplus stocks are now non-existent. The phasing-down of systematic intervention on the markets, together with a growth in demand for staple food products, means that only small quantities are now available for the "Most Deprived" scheme.
To ensure that the scheme could continue, it was amended in 1995 to allow the surplus stocks to be complemented by a financial contribution, when this was necessary. For the 2008 distribution plan, as the only large stocks that remain are sugar, the Commission decided to make finance available for approved charities to buy food on the open market.
The overall budget for the programme has increased from just under € 100 million in 1988 to over € 300 million in 2008.
In 2008, 19 of the 27 EU Member States are participating in the scheme: Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Spain, France, Eire, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Finland.
As intervention stocks are likely to remain low for the foreseeable future, the Commission launched an Impact Assessment of the Most Deprived programme in 2008, with the aim of examining options for the scheme's future. The advice, views and contributions of everyone concerned by the programme were sought in the course of the review.
Following the Commission's Guidelines,
the Impact Assessment was conducted by an Inter-service Steering
Group made up of representatives from the relevant Commission services
and is chaired by the Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural
Development. It included a broad consultation process with experts
from charitable organisations and Member State services, as well as a
public consultation. A
proposal for the future of the scheme was
put forward on 17 September 2008.
Declaration of the European Parliament on supplying approved charities working to implement the European food aid programme for the most deprived (04/04/2006)
List of Member State intervention agencies involved in the 2009 Plan for the Most Deprived Programme [pdf]
List of Member State intervention agencies involved in the 2010 Plan for the Most Deprived Programme [pdf]
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Last update: 12-01-2010