The European Dairy Association (EDA) has lodged a formal complaint to the European Commission in response to a decision by the Polish government to “name and shame” plants that are importing dairy produce from abroad.

The move – backed by the Polish government – is designed to encourage “economic patriotism” as the country grapples with the consequences of Covid-19.

However, for the EDA, the development raises significant issues in terms of defending some of the basic principles of the European Union – namely, the European Single Market principle and the principle of data protection.

The complaint – lodged last weekend with the commission’s DG GROW (Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs); DG JUST (Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers); and DG AGRI (Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development) – is supported by Dairy Industry Ireland (DII).

While Poland appears to import its largest volumes of dairy from Denmark, the Netherlands and Germany, the details of Polish importers of Irish butter are also identified on the list.

Minister Michael Creed’s Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has been informed of the situation and is expected to support the EDA’s complaint at EU level.

Speaking to AgriLand, DII director Conor Mulvihill said: “Clearly this move by the Polish government contravenes EU single market law and data protection law.

“We understand that the pandemic has focused minds on national products; but clearly this is a breach of law and it sets a worrying precedent,” he said.

Polish position

In a statement supporting the publication of its dairy importer lists for the first quarter of 2020, Poland’s ministry for agriculture and rural development outlined that in the difficult days of the epidemic “the vast majority of Poles are trying to support each other, including by buying Polish products, because it serves our economy”.

The statement continues: “Disturbing movements can be seen in the milk market. Purchase prices are falling, but this is not visible in stores.

Worse, because some of the plants in this industry, instead of buying from Polish farmers who provide us all with food security, import raw material from abroad.

“Under the conditions of the single market, there is of course no breach of law, but the issue of economic patriotism of these entities raises doubts.

“Acting in the interest of all those who care about supporting the Polish economy, we publish a list of plants importing milk and milk products from abroad, thus limiting purchases from Polish farmers,” the statement concludes.