The Irish Co-operative Society will oppose any attempts to reintroduce milk quotas by the back door in the EU, according to its Agri and Food Policy Executive, Eamon Farrell.

The European Milk Board, which includes 15 farm-based organisations from across the EU are proposing the re-introduction of quotas by the backdoor, Farell says.

The EMB has developed a so-called “Market Responsibility Programme” which would impose limits on milk production during a time of market difficulty.

The limits on production would be enforced by levies on farmers. Under the EMB proposal, limits on production would be binding across the EU with supply side measures scaled up as a crisis deepens.

“ICOS is steadfastly opposed to the re-introduction of quotas in any form,” Farell says.

He says the EMB fails to recognise the inadequacies in supply-side measures in the absence of more comprehensive support measures, which previously applied in the EU such as strong intervention levels, high import tariffs and export refunds.

“The reality is that the crisis in global dairy markets in 2009 occurred when quotas were in place.

“Unilateral action by the EU to limit milk production will open the door for New Zealand and US farmers to push ahead, leaving the European farmer behind once again.

“The EMB proposal also fails to recognise the comparative advantage, which Member States such as Ireland possess in milk production, and would seek to once again hold back an industry seeking to reach its true potential following over 30 years of quota management.

“ICOS continues to work within the main EU farm and co-operative organisation, Copa-Cogeca to ensure that practical and realistic measures are advanced at EU level,” he says.