The EU Council of Ministers has formally approved a three-year extension of the current flat-rate aid paid to European hops producers, up to and including the 2003 harvest.

The aid currently amounts to Euro480/hectare (US$423).

A Council statement has said that this would "allow decisions on providing aid to producers to be taken at the same time as decisions on special aid measures relating to temporary set-aside or permanent grubbing-up."

By the end of this period of grace, the European Commission is to present a report making fresh proposals, taking into account the impact on Brussels finances of the accession to the EU of major hop producing countries in eastern Europe.