C-114/76 Bela-Mühle Josef Bergmann v Grows-Farm [1977]

C-114/76 Bela-Mühle Josef Bergmann KG v Grows-Farm GmbH & Co KG [1977] ECR 1211 establishes a general principle of equality that prohibits discrimination between economic sectors.

The case arose from a significant over-accumulation of skimmed-milk powder held by intervention agencies. In an effort to reduce the stock, Council Regulation No. 563/76 of 15 March 1976 mandated the compulsory purchase of skimmed-milk powder for use as animal feed by animal feed importers. The price set for the skimmed-milk powder was three times that of comparable animal feed.

The European Court of Justice declared the regulation null and void, finding it discriminatory and disproportionate. The judgment emphasised that the obligation to purchase at such a disproportionate price resulted in a discriminatory distribution of the burden of costs among various agricultural sectors. Furthermore, the Court held that such an obligation was not necessary to achieve the intended objective, which was the disposal of stocks of skimmed-milk powder. Therefore, the regulation could not be justified in the context of the objectives of the common agricultural policy.

Specifically, the Court ruled that the obligation to purchase at such a disproportionate price constituted a discriminatory distribution of the burden of costs between the various agricultural sectors, but such an obligation is not necessary to attain the objective in view, namely, the disposal of stocks of skimmed-milk powder. Therefore, it could not be justified for the purposes of attaining the objectives of the common agricultural policy.

This case underscores the importance of the general principle of equality in preventing discrimination between economic sectors. It highlights the Court's scrutiny of regulations that impose disproportionate burdens on different sectors and emphasises the necessity for measures to be justified in achieving their intended objectives within the framework of broader policies.
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