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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 September 2007, 17:35 GMT 18:35 UK
EU acts on world grain shortage
Combine harvester harvesting wheat
Poor weather, from droughts to floods, has cut harvest forecasts
The EU has approved plans to increase the production of wheat and other grains amid rising prices and growing shortages on the world market.

Agriculture ministers decided to lift temporarily an existing requirement that farmers set aside 10% of their land and let it lie fallow.

The measure was introduced 15 years ago at a time of over-production in Europe.

EU officials say lifting the restriction could boost grain production by up to 17m metric tonnes.

The EU directive telling farmers to leave 10% of their land fallow was known as the "set-aside" scheme.

It was a response to the over-production of grain that had led to embarrassing surpluses, known popularly as grain mountains.

However, sharply increased demand and poor harvests have recently shrunk these reserve stocks to almost nothing.

Prices of cereals have also increased, leading to protests from food producers and consumers.

The EU has now decided to scrap the set-aside scheme for at least a year.

Environmental groups have, however, warned that the abolition of set-aside could leave millions of farm birds without enough food and breeding sites.

EU proposes scrapping fallow land
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