EU may extend zero import duty on feed wheat, barley

The European Union’s cereals management committee may vote Thursday to extend a suspension of the bloc’s import duties on feed wheat and barley until June 30 2012, a draft agenda of the meeting seen by Reuters showed.

In June, the EU suspended its import duties of 12 euros per tonne for low- and medium-quality wheat and 16 euros a tonne for feed barley until Dec. 31, in response to a spring drought that hit supplies of animal fodder.

Thursday’s possible vote could extend the measure until the end of the current marketing year, the agenda showed, to help meet strong demand for animal feed in southern European countries such as Spain, where stocks remain tight.

"It’s clearly the Commission’s intention (to extend the suspension). Cereals are available in quantity from the current EU campaign, but the problem is that they are expensive," a source close to the EU management committee told Reuters.

A spokeswoman for EU farm union Copa-Cogeca said the organisation opposed the extension of zero duties, as wheat prices within Europe were starting to fall.

Under international rules, the EU fixes maximum duties on cereals imports known as bound tariffs. For low- and medium-quality wheat, these are currently fixed at 95 euros per tonne.

For some cereals, the bloc has established TRQs, annual volume quotas for grain imports at duties much lower than the standard bound tariffs.

Exclusive rights

In 2003, the EU introduced TRQs at reduced tariffs for imports of low- and medium-quality wheat, and barley, with exclusive rights for Canada and the U.S.

Of the bloc’s 2,989,240-tonne quota for feed wheat in 2011, 572,000 tonnes are earmarked for imports from the U.S., and 38,853 tonnes for imports from Canada.

The bulk of the import quotas for 2011 have already been filled, but the full volume for 2012 will become available again from Jan. 1, and could be imported at zero duty if the EU committee extends the current measures.

In October, the EU agreed to open a new import quota from 2012 for feed wheat from non-EU countries of 122,790 tonnes, taking the total TRQ for next year to 3,112,030 tonnes.

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