Charities warn of ‘food crisis’

European agriculture ministers meet today to decide whether or not to slash food aid for the needy

19 September 2011

CHARITIES which provide food to the most disadvantaged have sounded the alarm over planned drastic cuts to PEAD, a European fund for helping the poor.

Created in 1987 by then EU president Jacques Delors, encouraged by Restaurants du Coeur founder Coluche, the fund allows for the distribution of food aid to 13 million needy people, most significantly in Italy, France and Poland.

However drastic cuts are expected to be made to it next year unless there is a change of policy at a “last chance” meeting of EU agriculture ministers today.

The problem arose because the programme was set up to use Common Agricultural Policy stocks, which have been low in recent years. Europe has been having to buy in food. Germany complained and was supported by the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, which said the purchases were inappropriate.

The fund is to be cut by 76% next year and could disappear altogether in 2013. In 2012 France’s share would drop from €72 million to € 15 million.

Four French associations have spoken out: Les Restos du Coeur, Le Secours Populaire, La Croix Rouge and the Fédération Française des Banques Alimentaires.

Restos du Coeur president Olivier Berthe said: “At a time when there has never been so much demand, there has never been such a threat to our work. This is the first time that our four associations have joined together to sound the alarm. If no decision is taken there will be a humanitarian crisis, a food crisis in this country.”

The planned cut will mean 130 million fewer meals distributed in 2012, said Didier Piard, head of welfare work at La Croix Rouge. The PEAD represents 23-55% of food collected by the French associations.

Coluche’s widow, Véronique Colucci said on Europe 1: “People who use the Restos du Coeur are in great danger if this decision is adopted. At a time when we see poverty growing, and we distributed 23% more meals last year, Europe is doing nothing to halt the process of ending the financing.”

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