Caretaker Coveney to oppose any ‘return to quotas’ at EU crisis meeting

Representing Ireland at a key meeting of Agriculture Ministers in Brussels today is the now Caretaker Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney.

At the meeting, agriculture ministers from all EU Member States will attempt to find solutions to the on going difficulties in the dairy and pigmeat sectors.

However, Minister Coveney is likely to oppose any moves towards the regulation of milk supplies at EU level.

In its submission to the European Commission ahead to the meeting, Ireland said regulating supply in times of price downturns is not an appropriate response.

Ireland’s submission said measures taken only within the EU will disadvantage EU farmers and co-ops, will undermine efficient production and will adversely affect the ability of farmers to benefit when the market turns in their favour.

“It would be a backward step to consider such measures now,” it said.

However, the number of EU Member States said to now be in favour of some form of milk supply management has increased to 11.

The proposal will be on the table at a key meeting of European Agriculture Ministers today.

Milk supply management is a key pillar of the French Governments proposals to solve the difficulties in the dairy market and the weight of one of the EU’s largest nations behind the initiative other countries have also jumped on board.

However, other key nations such as the UK and Germany along with Ireland are said to be opposed to supply management measures at this stage.

Ahead of the meeting, some consensus is set to be forming around changes to the intervention scheme.  However, an intervention price increase remains unlikely due to strong opposition from European Agriculture Commission Phil Hogan.

Any changes to EU public intervention is likely to centre around an increase in the volumes which are allowed to be purchased at the highest intervention price.

Use of the CAP Crisis Reserve is also likely to be discussed at the meeting, with Commissioner Hogan already stating publically that the politically sensitive measure may have to be activated to fund any proposals that emerge from the discussions.

The Crisis Reserve is seen as a political ‘hot potato’ in many EU Member States as it involves taking money from all farmers direct payments from Brussels.

Meanwhile, IFA National Chairman Jer Bergin will lead a delegation of senior officers and commodity chairmen to Brussels today for the Farm Council meeting.