The European Commission has dashed the hopes of Sicilian wine-growers awaiting compensation from the Italian government for unused replanting rights.

The island's regional government had planned to pay growers whose rights had become worthless as a result of drought in 1988-1990 some 2bn Lire (US$938,504). Brussels now says the aid is incompatible with the rules of the common organisation of the EU market in wine, because the offer of a grant in 1995 was made too late.

Franz Fischler from the Brussels office of the EU agriculture commissioner said it was unlikely that any cash had ever been handed over as the commission had objected to the proposal soon after it was announced in 1995.

"We do not think the question of repayment or any aid arises," said the official.