Sofia determined to clean up food industry in 2006

SOFIA (SeeNews) – EU-hopeful Bulgaria is likely to close nearly 100 food firms in 2006 out of the country’s total of 733 meat, fish and dairy companies for failure to meet the quality standards of the European Union, Bulgarian veterinary authorities said yesterday. «We expect that the firms will be more than 100,» the head of the Veterinary and Sanitary Control Department at the National Veterinary Service (NVS), Svetozar Vassilev, told SeeNews. NVS experts have submitted to EU authorities a list of companies which ought to be restructured by June 2006. Bulgaria hopes to join the EU in 2007. The European Commission warned Bulgaria in October that its accession to the European Union could be delayed by a year until 2008 unless the country speeds up reforms in several key sectors, including farming. Veterinary inspections, to be conducted up to the end of January 2006, would decide on the closure of most of the firms, said Vassilev. However, he added, industry lobby groups have asked for a delay in the closure for those firms, which believed it possible to complete their restructuring by June 15. Fisheries, undergoing restructuring, will have to meet a January 31 deadline, while the deadline for dairies is March 31 and meat producers will have to restructure their companies by June 15. «We will submit the final list of the firms which would operate after 2007 in the EU in September next year,» said Vassilev.