The European Parliament is pressing for an effective re-nationalisation of European Union (EU) powers to support the continued existence of an EU cotton production industry.

In non-binding amendments to a proposed EU subsidy system largely disconnected from cotton production levels, MEPs have called for national funds earmarked for wide-ranging actions protecting the industry.

"Cotton growing represents only 0.15% of EU agriculture production but is very important at economic, social and environmental levels in EU southern countries and should therefore be preserved," said a parliament communiqué.

In its proposals, 'national support programmes' would be established by member states with cotton production, such as Greece and Spain.

Their governments would have the authority to "select whatever package of measures they consider effective and which is best suited to their regional characteristics.

That package could include a restructuring fund for the ginning industry," said the amendments.

The programmes would offer incentives, including 1% of the overall cotton production subsidies still linked to production and EUR22m earmarked by the European Commission for restructuring cotton-producing regions.

In addition, EU member states could grant a "quality premium" to growers producing cotton "of exceptional quality" as part of the revisions.

By Keith Nuthall.