Letter: Economic dangers of tobacco subsidies

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The Independent Online
Sir: Following the Veronica Bland passive smoking case, it is worth reminding your readers of the problems that the tobacco sector still causes in the Common Agricultural Policy.

This year, tobacco will still account for more than pounds 1bn in the CAP which is 1.84 per cent of the total EC budget. The planned McSharry reforms are to reduce this figure to pounds 720m next year, which some claim to be progress.

The Council of Ministers, including the United Kingdom government, has just agreed to transfer almost pounds 38m to the tobacco sector to cover its overspend in last year's budget.

The irony is that of the 390,000 tonnes grown in Europe each year, 210,000 tonnes is dumped on the poorer countries, because European cigarette manufacturers import 75 per cent of their tobacco.

On 1990 figures, the CAP subsidised cereals to the amount of pounds 104 per hectare and tobacco was subsidised 35 times more than this at pounds 3,622 per hectare.

On these figures, for each full- time employed person in the tobacco-growing sector the EC was spending pounds 5,563, which is double the 1986 figure.

If the argument is that it is the poorer countries that benefit from this, then the EC would be far better converting these amounts into structural funds to find alternatives to tobacco or alternative forms of employment.

One final comment: US agricultural subsidies to tobacco over the past 60 years have still not totalled the amount the EC pays in one year.

Yours sincerely


MEP for Merseyside East (Lab)

St Helens, Merseyside

29 January