France to push for tougher rules on farm products

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PARIS, Oct 25 (Reuters) France will push for tougher quality and safety standards to protect European agriculture from unfair competition in an overhaul of EU farm policy, Farm Minister Michel Barnier said in an interview today.

He told the Financial Times that rising global demand for many farm products would reduce the need for direct subsidies but that other ways to stabilise fluctuating prices would need to be found.

France is planning to use its presidency of the European Union in the second half of 2008 to open up a debate on the Common Agricultural Policy, which must be overhauled by 2013.

Barnier said France ''may accept'' top slicing of payments to large farms if the money were used for ''mechanisms to stabilise the market'', including income insurance for farmers and subsidised private sector storage of surpluses.

The paper said France was ready to cut payments for big cereal producers to help support livestock farmers. But Barnier said France would continue to support a well-funded CAP because of agriculture's ''positive externalities'' of countryside management, food safety, security and environmental protection.

He also restated France's position that the EU had gone a long way in offering to reduce tariffs in the Doha round of World Trade Organisation talks.

''I don't think we can make further concessions,'' he said.

REUTERS SKB HS1247

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