ECONOMY

Bucharest plans to have farm payment agencies ready in December

BUCHAREST (Reuters) – Romania should have the payment agencies needed to disburse EU cash to farms ready in time for European Union entry in January, departing Farm Minister Gheorghe Flutur said yesterday. Brussels said Romania must make payment agencies for farm aid fully operational to be able to spend billions of euros allocated by the EU and and boost food safety standards to avoid trade curbs. «We estimate the two agencies will be accredited in mid-December. The process is on the right track,» Flutur, who was sacked on Thursday after he sided with a group of dissident politicians within the ruling Liberal party, told reporters. «PricewaterhouseCoopers has until November 30 to finish the assessment of the agencies,» he added. One agency will handle the payment of cash for rural development and fishing and the other will disburse direct payments to farmers under the Common Agricultural Policy scheme. Romania is entitled to receive around 12 billion euros between 2007 and 2013, for rural development plans and in direct payments. Around 1.5 million farmers who own around 9 million hectares of farmland are registered as eligible for aid. But the European Commission may reduce farm payments to Romania and Bulgaria by 25 percent if by April 2007 they do not set up an operational database for animals, crops and land. A replacement for Flutur, praised by EU diplomats for efforts to reform the Black Sea state’s backward agriculture and for the way the authorities dealt with an outbreak of bird flu in late 2005, is expected next week.