Milk crisis nationalism is anti-EU, Dutch tell Commission

By Annie Harrison-Dunn contact

- Last updated on GMT

Nationalism is not the solution - we're all in this milk price crisis together, says the Dutch Dairy Association (NZO)
Nationalism is not the solution - we're all in this milk price crisis together, says the Dutch Dairy Association (NZO)

Related tags: European union

Calls from the French National Federation of Dairy Cooperatives (FNCL) to stop imports of foreign dairy products are contrary to EU single market principles, Dutch groups have complained to the European Commission.

This was the grievance of the Dutch Dairy Association (NZO) and Dutch Federation of Agriculture and Horticulture (LTO), backed last weekby the country’s Food Industry Federation (FNLI).

The groups said free movement of goods was one of the main pillars of prosperity in the European Union – the largest single market in the world with 28 countries and 503 million people.

Protectionist calls from the French dairy group risked setting a dangerous precedent, the FNLI said.

It said Dutch food manufacturers depended on their European neighbours – with more than half of their products exported and most of this within the EU – and blockades by French farmers had caused disproportionate damage to non-French suppliers of agricultural products.

EU member states harmonisation

It reminded the French group that its members and the country’s economy as a whole also relied on neighbourly trade.

NZO and LTO echoed this, saying a healthy free EU market was in the interest of all links in the chain, including French farmers.

French farmers have been protesting across the country in recent weeks with roadblocks and various stunts in supermarkets. They said French meat and dairy couldn’t compete with cheaper imports and the ensuing supermarket price pressure was pushing them to bankruptcy.

French agriculture minister, Stéphane Le Foll, urged patriotic purchasing last month to help save the livelihoods of the country’s 25,000 farmers.

“In the current crisis, everyone is responsible, from the consumer to the local politician who must favour French products,” ​he reportedly said.

 

Yet NZO and LTO said such a national approach in the EU was unacceptable – and moreover was not a solution for the current dairy crisis that was hitting all European producers.

A similar movement to support British milk has been seen, but a spokesperson for NZO told us: There has not been similar calls to support Dutch milk and we do not believe that nationalism is the solution.”

Europe’s dairy price war has been seen throughout the EU, due to a combination of factors including the lifting of the EU milk quota in March, changing consumption patterns, international competition and trade loss after the EU-Russia fallout.

There will be an EU agricultural ministers meeting in Brussels in September to discuss the crisis. Northern Ireland's agriculture minister Michelle O'Neill will push for a review of the current intervention price – the price used in EU agricultural policy to create a ‘floor’ market price for commodities like sugar and cereal grains.

The European Milk Board (EMB) was planning a protest on the same day outside the headquarters of the EU Council in Brussels “to prevent the outcome [of the meeting] being just empty words”.  

“The situation is now drastic for all of us. Milk prices are rock-bottom; dairy farmers are being brutally deprived of their livelihood throughout Europe,” ​the EMB said.

The UK’s Department of Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) estimated in June the average farmer received 23.66p per litre - the lowest price in five years and down 25% in the last year. Meanwhile, farmers say it costs them about 30-32p to produce a litre of milk – meaning they are losing money. 

dairy supermarket choice

The UK’s National Farmers' Union (NFU) claims this is the result of a supermarket price war, which has devalued the product in the eyes of the public. 

Yesterday UK supermarket Morrisons announced the launch of its new milk brand, Milk for Farmers, which will pay 10p per litre extra to farmers.

Commenting on the launch, Morrison’s group corporate services director, Martyn Jones, said: "Customers can choose whether they want to pay a little for to support British dairy. A recent survey found that more than half of consumers said they would be willing to do so and this is an opportunity to test that out."

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