EU ministers have agreed to a new fruit and vegetable regime which will cut producer aid to marketing groups from 4.5% to a flat rate of 4.1% of turnover. The Commission originally wanted a reduction to 3% but met opposition from southern European members. The NFU says the move could not have come at a better time because it will inject an estimated £2m into the horticultural industry. Vice president Michael Paske said it underlined the intention to move away from direct support in favour of encouraging cooperative marketing. Other features of the reform package include the replacement of the processed tomato quota with a threshhold system based on raw material intake rather than finished product. Payment of aid to tomato, peach and pear producer organisations will be direct, similar to the method used for the citrus industry. There will be a reduction in the intervention payments for oranges, lemons and easy peelers, linked to the amount of marketable produce which can be withdrawn. This will be 5% less from the end of 2002. Under existing rules, producer organisations can claim 15% dropping to 10% through the remaining transitional period. {{FRESH PRODUCE }}