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EU sour on French milk and meat industry meetings

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EU sour on French milk and meat industry meetings


(PARIS) - The European Commission is investigating possible anti-competitive behaviour at roundtable meetings of the dairy and meat sectors the French government organised last year held to raise critically low prices.

"The Commission is currently investigating alleged anti-competitive behaviour in the milk sector in France," it said in a letter sent in mid-December to groups who participated in two meetings organised by the office of French Agriculture Minister Stephane le Foll.

Brussels is also investigating the beef and pork sectors, according to Henri Brichart, vice president of the FNSEA, the union which represents a majority of farmers and participated in the July and October meetings.

Farmers unions, processed food companies and major retailers are suspected of breaching community rules by "concluding one or more agreements about prices and/or on import restrictions" said the Commission in its letter.

The roundtable meetings resulted in pledges to raise prices, with a floor of 340 euros for a tonne of milk, 1.40 euros per kilo of pork and hike of 0.20 euros per kilo for beef.

Recipients of the letters were ordered to submit all of the information they have concerning the meetings before February 15 or face fines.

The Commission told AFP that it had "received complaints about the situation on the dairy and meat markets in France and is in the process of carrying out investigations into the matter."

Le Foll's chief of staff confirmed during a press conference in Brussels on Wednesday that the Commission had contacted French officials in September to verify whether the government's efforts to mediate on prices was compatible with EU competition rules.

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