Butterfat deal is only part of the quota challenge

ICOS Dairy Policy Executive T J Flanagan has told Agriland that today’s decision in Brussels to either grant – or not grant – Ireland’s request for a milk quota butterfat adjustment is all about politics.

“Commissioner Ciolos has officially confirmed that the technical procedures are in place to allow for the re-adjustment. However, he has refused to push ahead with Ireland’s request unilaterally, citing the need to get a political deal in Luxembourg today on the matter.

“It is also significant that COPA COGECA is now backing the butterfat amendment proposal with the added proviso that any super levy paid in 2014/15 is made available to those milk produces in sensitive areas, including France and Spain.”

Agriland has seen a draft of a communique, complied by the Council of Ministers’ Secretariat last Thursday and tying in with today’s Council meeting in Brussels, which recommends that the European Commission should take adequate and timely measures for the last quota year to reduce pressure on milk producers. Significantly these should include the adjustment of the fat correction coefficients applicable under the current milk quota regime.

Of course, this may not be the final version of the communique presented to the Ministers today. However, it does reflect the changing perspective adopted by the key bureaucrats in Brussels regarding the butterfat re-alignment issue over the past number of weeks.”

But T J Flanagan is at pains to point out that even if Minister Coveney does secure a butterfat deal today, it should not be seen as a signal for Irish dairy farmers to open the milk production floodgates.

“The reality is that, even with a butterfat adjustment, Ireland will still be looking down the barrel of a hefty superlevy fine this time next year. Cows are milking well and, assuming normal weather patterns, our milk production will be well up year-on-year,” he commented.

“Given these circumstances farmers must act responsibly and plan their activities accordingly over the coming months.”

Meanwhile the Department of Agriculture has confirmed to Agriland that Minister Coveney will not be issuing a public statement prior to this afternoon’s EU Council meeting in Luxembourg.

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