With a production value of over €600 billion, the responsibility of up to 3 million employees, and the main user of Community agricultural produce, the European food and drink industry encouraged ministers to back CAP reform when they meet this week to discuss the thorny issue.
TheCIAA - the body that represents the European food and drink industry - said an agreement would provide more predictability to the sector and further room for manoeuvre that could beused in the WTO negotiations.
"The CIAA supports the continuation of the reform process, in particular theprogressive opening of CAP to market forces, as it will improve thecompetitiveness of agri-food products both within the EU and on thirdcountry markets," said the group in a statement this week.
Despite the industry's overwhelming support for CAP reform, Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler's proposal to cut the link between production and subsidies - one of the most controversial aspects of the reform proposals - has raised concerns among certain federations and sectors who fear the impact that the total elimination of the existing link between direct support and production - otherwise known as decoupling- would have on their supply of raw materials.
As a means of softening the impact, the CIAA has proposed that decoupling of support from production must take into account the effect on the different agriculture production sectors.
Further proposals from the CIAA include making direct payments dependent on the respect of the EU regulatory requirements and of good agricultural conditions with the aim to increaseconsumer confidence.
According to figures from the CIAA, the European food and drink industry uses and transforms about 70 per cent of the Community agriculture produce. With €45 billion of exports, it is the second largest exporter of processed foodstuffs.