Draft reform of the Common Agricultural Policy presented by the European Commission has received a mixed reaction from growers and the wider fresh produce trade.

The reform is for the period after 2013 and the draft aims to strengthen competitiveness, sustainability and permanence of agriculture and horticulture in the EU while securing a source of high-quality food simultaneously preserving the environment and developing rural areas.

'The European Commission is proposing a new partnership between Europe and its farmers in order to meet the challenges of food security, sustainable use of natural resources and growth,” said farm commissioner Dacian Ciolos. “The next decades will be crucial for laying the foundations of a strong agricultural sector that can cope with climate change and international competition while meeting the expectations of the citizen. Europe needs its farmers. Farmers need Europe’s support. The Common Agricultural Policy is what feeds us, it's the future of more than half of our territory.”

The NFU has slammed the draft as a “missed opportunity” while European fresh-produce trade body Freshfel has welcomed the changes it will mean for school fruit and vegetable schemes.

“The Commission says it wants ‘smart, sustainable and inclusive growth for European agriculture’,” the NFU said in a statement. “But [we] believe very few of the proposals will help meet those objectives and many of them will actually move farming in England and Wales in the opposite direction…. in terms of equity, we want to ensure that we have equivalent greening measures throughout the European Union. The purpose of this reform must be to bring the whole of Europe up to the standard of the better-performing countries.”

The commission has outlined 10 main points of the reform: more targeted income support, more responsive and adequate crisis management tools, green payments for long-term productivity, additional investment in research and innovation, a more competitive and balanced food chain, encouraging agri-environmental initiatives, aid for young farmers setting up, stimulating rural employment and entrepreneurship, taking better account of fragile areas and a simpler, more efficient CAP.

Including in the proposals are significant changes to the European school fruit scheme (SFS) featuring an increase in the budget from €90 million to €150m and an increase on the co-financing percentage to 75-90 per cent from 50-70 per cent. “Freshfel is pleased with these changes that will allow for more programmes to be adopted in the member states and for more children to benefit from the SFS and the possibility of building healthy eating habits,” said Freshfel’s Philippe Binard.

And in Spain producer group Ava-Asaja claims that the proposed reforms “discriminate” against fruit and vegetable production and fail to address imbalance in the supply chain.