EUROPEAN FARM MINISTERS FACE DELAY AT PRICE TALKS

EUROPEAN FARM MINISTERS FACE DELAY AT PRICE TALKS

European Community agriculture ministers are expected to hold their first discussion on the European Commission's 1988-89 farm price proposals today, Agriculture Council sources said.

The talks will be held against a background of farmers' opposition to a proposed price freeze, which farm union leaders said in Brussels would in fact lead to an effective 2.5 percent price cut for grains and 6 percent for beef.Monday the ministers started the first day of the scheduled 3-day Agriculture Council meeting to implement a new cost-stabilizing mechanism for EC wine production and launch the normally lengthy process of setting prices for the new season and accompanying measures for various commodities under the Common Agricultural Policy.

As expected, wine is delaying progress on the other commodities, and ministers were locked in a series of bilateral meetings seeking a compromise on production controls. Without agreement on wine, the other so-called stabilizers can't be implemented and there is no basis for working out arrangements for other commodities in 1988-89, the sources said.

Nevertheless they said that the European government heads last month had mandated agreement by farm ministers on the wine stabilizers by the start of April. Therefore this should in principle be cleared up this week, enabling negotiations on the other price proposals to get under way in earnest next month.