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EU experts accept 210-million-euro fund for E. coli losses

Producers' association chief terms deal an "insult to Spanish farmers"

A committee of experts from the 27 countries of the European Union on Tuesday elected to accept the EC Commissioner for Agriculture's offer of 210 million euros in compensation for losses incurred after a lethal outbreak of E. coli, which has killed 37 people.

The sum, which was raised last week from 150 million euros in the face of protests from Spain and other countries, represents around 50 percent of the total losses suffered in Europe's horticultural sector. Spain was hit particularly hard after Germany wrongly asserted that Andalusian cucumbers were the source of the outbreak. Spain, though, is set to miss out on the lion's share as payments will be calculated on reference prices for cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini and lettuce, of which the Netherlands exported 67 percent of the total in June - Spain's lowest production period - between 2007 and 2010.

Nine countries, including Spain, France and Germany, signed a document in Luxembourg demanding the reimbursement of between 90 and 100 percent of losses, but commissioner Dacian Ciolos believes the 210 million euros will be accepted. José María Pozancos, the head of the Fepex producers' association, called the offer "an insult by the EC against Spanish farmers, who are suffering the consequences of appalling management."