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Tuesday, September 28, 1999 Published at 19:56 GMT 20:56 UK

Business: The Economy

Chocolate war breakthrough on hold

Chocs away, but UK companies may have to wait for their new market

A breakthrough deal in Europe's chocolate war which would have opened up a huge new market for UK producers may be delayed for more than a year, EU officials say.

In July, EU ambassadors agreed to allow chocolate made in the traditional British style with vegetable fats to be marketed in all 15 member states.

The move ended a 25-year dispute over what could be termed chocolate, which stemmed from to an exemption granted to the UK, Ireland and Denmark when they joined the EU in 1973.

However the deal needs to be approved by the European Parliament, but with elections due it could now take up to 18 months before that happens.

Bitter sweet

"It's not a foregone conclusion that it'll sail though the next stage. It's still very hard to say what the attitude of the new parliament will be," one EU official said.

The change has angered some chocolate-making countries such as Belgium and cocoa producers such as the Ivory Coast.

Ivorian Foreign Trade Minister Guy-Alain Gauze, fearing the deal could cut EU cocoa demand by 200,000 tonnes, has urged cocoa growing nations to fight the EU compromise.

Eight EU countries currently only recognise chocolate made with no other fat than cocoa butter and block UK imports on the grounds that it is not "real"chocolate.

The deal struck in July agreed to an updated directive that would allow the UK to describe the product as "milk chocolate", while in the rest of Europe it would be called "family milk chocolate."

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