5 Aug 2009

French farmers told to return aid money

1:08 pm on 5 August 2009

French farmers are being ordered to pay back hundreds of millions of euros after the European Union ruled they had received state aid which amounted to unfair competition.

France, the biggest beneficiary of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy, was rapped for granting farmers funds that were intended to help them cope with a crisis in the fruit and vegetable market.

The European Commission says the country's growers received more than $NZ712 million in illegal subsidies from the French state between 1992 and 2002.

France's Agriculture Minister Bruno Le Maire says the Government will now have to launch proceedings to be reimbursed by the farmers.

He did not specify the amount the state would be seeking back but said there will be a case-by-case study to ensure struggling farmers were not driven into bankruptcy.

However he may have a fight on his hands, as the fruit and vegetable growers union has said growers will refuse to give back subsidies.