Extracts from the press conference by Mariann Fischer Boel, on the food programme for the most deprived persons in the EU
On 17 September 2008 the European Commission proposed to improve the current food distribution programme for the most deprived persons in the European Union by increasing the budget by two thirds to around 500 million euro from 2009 and extending the range of products which can be provided. Originally designed to provide surplus stocks of farm produce ("intervention stocks") to needy people, the scheme was amended in the mid-1990s to make it possible to supplement intervention stocks with market purchases in certain circumstances. Now that surplus stocks are extremely low and unlikely to increase in the foreseeable future, the scheme should allow market purchases on a permanent basis, to complement remaining intervention stocks. The choice of food would be for the Member States and food distribution plans would be established for three-year periods. Food would continue to be distributed in cooperation with charities and local social services. From the 2010/12 plan, the scheme would be co-financed (75 percent from the EU budget, and 85 percent in cohesion areas). From the 2013/15 plan, co-financing would be split 50/50, with the EU budget providing 75 percent in cohesion regions. The Commission believes an increase in the budget to be necessary because rising food prices are adversely affecting the food security of needy people and increasing the cost of providing food aid. In 2006, more than 13 million EU citizens benefited from this aid scheme. The revised programme should be available from 2010.
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 financial contribution.