Protests overshadow plans for dairy taskforce

By Guy Montague-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Milk

Agriculture ministers heard plans for an expert group to study the future of the dairy sector at a meeting in Brussels on Monday - marked more by protests outside than events inside.

Thousands of farmers gathered in the city on the day of the meeting to put pressure on ministers to take emergency action on low milk prices. Farmers spilled milk into the streets and one farmer even milked one of his cows in the direction of a police officer but the scale of the protest failed to elicit any new short term promises.

Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel reiterated plans to offer farmers financial aid and promised authorisation in the coming days for member states to pay struggling dairy farmers up to €15,000 each.

Otherwise Fischer Boel focused on long-term arrangements for the dairy industry.

Milk team

In view of the current milk crisis and the ending of milk quotas in April 2015, the Commissioner told ministers that a team of experts would start work next week to discuss the future of dairy policy.

The so-called High Level Expert Group on Milk will study whether new arrangements are needed to stabalise farmer incomes, reduce price volatility and enhance market transparency.

Chaired by Jean-Luc Demarty, the director general for agriculture at the Commission, the group will meet once a month to discuss the following topics:

  • Contractual relations between milk producers and dairies to better balance supply and demand on the dairy market
  • What can be done to strengthen the bargaining power of milk producers?
  • Are the existing market instruments appropriate?
  • Transparency and information to consumers, quality, health and labelling issues
  • Innovation and research with a view to making the sector more competitive
  • A possible futures market in dairy

Fischer Boel said: “We need to try to reduce market volatility, improve transparency and discuss how farmers can improve their organisation.”

Price update

In the meantime, Fischer Boel was upbeat about the market situation and told ministers that the most recent data shows that prices are improving for all dairy commodities including raw milk at the farm gate.

The average milk price in July/August was estimated to be 25-26 cents/litre and recent information from major European processors suggests an increase of 1-2 cents for delivery in September/October.

Fischer Boel said: “I'm pleased to say that the measures we have already taken are showing clear signs of having a positive effect on dairy prices.”

Related topics: Markets

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