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Minister returns from high level meetings in Brussels 8 November 2005

    The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Hon Phil Gawne MHK, believes that a five-year extension of the Island’s meat derogation may be secured.

    Mr Gawne has recently returned from a crucial visit to Brussels where he led discussions with senior officials of the European Commission’s Agricultural Directorate. The Minister used the opportunity to strongly reinforce submissions made earlier this year to the Commission with regards to the Island’s meat and dairy import derogations.

    With farming and the countryside providing such an important part of the Island’s environment and community life, continued production is vital to the well-being of much more than the agricultural industry. The derogations are to enable the Island to regulate the importation of meat and dairy products.

    The discussions were held in challenging circumstances. The Commission’s position is determined by wider concerns with World Trade Organisation negotiations regarding the freeing of access to world markets. Notwithstanding the difficult nature of the discussions, the Minister believes that it is now possible that the Island’s present derogation enabling it to control imports of meat may be extended for a further five years. The Isle of Man has had a red meat derogation since 1982. It has been renewed seven times since then.

    Final negotiations are ongoing in preparation for formal ratification of a decision on meat which is expected later this year. If the Island is successful in securing the meat derogation, the Commission is indicating that it would not expect to grant any subsequent extensions. The Commission strongly believes that the Island, like the EU, will need to undertake significant structural reforms of its agricultural industry.

    The Minister and DAFF officials met with Russell Mildon, Director of Economics of the Agricultural Market at the Commission’s Directorate-General for Agriculture, and Christina Borchmann, Member of the Cabinet of the EU Agriculture Commissioner (Mariann Fischer Boel).

    Mr Gawne commented, “I am pleased that Commission officials have recognised the importance of our securing this important five-year extension to the current meat derogation. For the Commission to agree to our derogation this time, it will be very much swimming against the tide of political opinion in Europe. However, it will give the industry and the Department time for orderly adjustment to the world market position.”

    “Everyone we met made it abundantly clear that significant restructuring of our agricultural sector will be required in the next few years if it is to have a viable future. The European Union plans to undertake substantial reforms of its agricultural industry, but will be softening the blow by redirecting funding to assist farmers through this difficult restructuring period.”

    Mr Gawne was disappointed, though not surprised, at the Commission’s position. “In light of the new political stance being taken on protection of markets, there was little chance that the Commission would favourably consider our milk derogation at this stage. However, Commission officials have agreed to help us understand how other small islands manage in the European single market, and they have not ruled out a more favourable consideration of our case if circumstances in the milk sector deteriorate.”

    8th November 2005

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