Milk price alternative sought in EU tractor protest

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Common agricultural policy, European milk board, Milk, Dairy farming

A barrage of tractors have descended upon the latest meeting of EU agriculture ministers to drive home dairy farmers’ calls for what they claim are the basic conditions required to ensure a ‘fair’ price for their products.

Speaking to protestors outside yesterday outside talks regarding the health check of EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reforms, Romuald Schaber, President of the European Milk Board (EMB), demanded a new deal for European dairy farmers.

Milk prices have continued to dominate and divide opinion within the European dairy industry, as some industry associations have played down farmer’s calls for more pricing power, favouring an industry-wide solution to price concerns.

However, Schaber, speaking during the first day of demonstrations outside the health check meeting, said farmers had untied not to call for a return to subsidised production, but for assurance that they can cover their own production costs.

“We don’t want any subsidies in the form of a milk fund, we want basic conditions that bring about a working, fair market in which the cost of producing milk on the farms is paid,”​ he said.

Farmer proposals

The EMB says that it is calling for a number of alternative measures from the health check.

These include:

  • Increases or reductions in European milk quotas dictated by market demand and not political process
  • Regulation on products entering the market that restrict imports on products that are deemed to be of lower price or quality than those available on the internal market
  • A legal framework to adjust milk production volumes more flexibly

EMB concerns

The EMB claims that existing health check proposals designed to encourage deregulation of current dairy markets are favouring the cheap sale of milk to be sold at export as powder or butter. According to the association, this decision will not ensure secure milk supply or better quality of products within the bloc as well as damaging the agricultural sector.

Jean-Louis Naveau, member of the EMB executive committee told demonstrators that he believed that European politicians were not acting in the best interests of both the farmer and the consumer.

“Consumers, too, benefit directly from fair, cost-covering farm gate milk prices,”​ he stated.

EDA review

Despite these farmer concerns, Dr Joop Kleibeuker, head of the European Dairy Association (EDA) told DairyReporter.com earlier this year that striking a balance in sustainable pricing for all members of the dairy supply chain was the best means of ensuring long-term sustainable production in the sector.

Kleibeuker added that calls from some groups for a fair trade-style scheme for the bloc’s milk farmers could therefore serve only to distort agricultural reforms designed to ensure profitability for everyone in the milk supply chain.

"The ongoing reforms of the European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) have meant that there is no bottom in the market but also no ceiling,"​ he said. "This is the choice we have made inEurope, and we are confident that there is a good future ahead for the entire dairy industry on the world stage."

Ultimately, Kleibeuker said that the CAP reforms were vital for ensuring farmers could cover costs in a way that ensured value for processors and consumers as well as allowing for future investment.

Related topics: Markets, Fresh Milk, Pricing Pressures

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