The planned reform of the EU's rice market protection system could lead to dearer rice ­ particularly from the US. Some analysts believe the replacement of variable import charges by fixed tariffs could mean an increase in the overall import charge. The European Commission will finalise its proposals for a new rice market system on May 17. It is planning to abolish intervention for surplus Italian and French rice stocks. It will also remove the current system of variable import duties based on the difference between world prices and the intervention price. But, to ensure protection of inefficient EU rice producers, the Commission could propose a much higher fixed tariff than the average of the variable amounts which they will be replacing. Some traders believe that the Commission could recommend a tariff level up to 65 euros a tonne higher than the present charge, currently around 200 euros per tonne. The present import levy is based on the difference between the world market price and the assumed "threshold" level of the intervention price plus 80%. But if this mechanism were to disappear, the tariff would by default return to the WTO "bound" rate agreed in the Uruguay Round accord, which is aligned on the tariff for cereals ­ 264/tonne. {{PROVISIONS }}