Speaking at the International Dairy Federation (IDF) World Dairy Summit in Vilnius, Lithuania yesterday, Joost Korte, Deputy Director General for Agriculture and Rural Affairs in Brussels, said “measures are being prepared to address that issue.”
Unable or unwilling to offer detail, Korte hinted that European Union (EU) Member States could be encouraged to establish national authorities like the existing UK Groceries Code Adjudicator, an independent watchdog that oversees the relationship between British supermarkets and their suppliers.
"We have a Treaty and the Treaty leaves much of these things to the Member States, and you'll see that in the United Kingdom [where] they established an adjudicator, an independent authority that looks into the prices," he said.
“In Spain they have the same and in this country, in Lithuania, the government has been extremely active and adopted legislation to make sure that farmers are treated fairly.”
“So we are thinking now of what we can do and bring that into a much clearer European framework," he said. "This I something that Phil Hogan wants to do early next year," he added.
Retailers in a number of EU Member States have been accused of squeezing suppliers by driving down the shelf price of milk.
In the UK, for example, consumers could recently buy a four pint (2.27 litres) bottle of fresh milk for as little as £0.89 ($1.36, €1.22).
Earlier this year, British dairy farmers protesting the low retail price of fresh milk removed large quantities of the product from stores – a campaign Farmers for Action (FFA) dubbed the Milk Trolley Dash.
Days later, farmers led two cows into an Asda stores in Stafford.
In other Member States, however, the "situation is not very clear," Korte told delegates.
“It depends very much from Member State to Member State, it depends from product to product and the evidence is actually rather poor,” he said.
“People often say it is because the retailers are too powerful, but if you look into the evidence you’ll see this problem is not so clear.”