French dairy industry tells Minister only mandatory EU milk supply management will work

Last week, French Agriculture Minister Stéphane Le Foll gathered the key players in the French dairy sector together to consider how to implement newly-agreed EU milk supply control measure.

It is understood that stakeholders in the French dairy industry indicated to Minister Le Foll that for the measure to be effective, it had to be set up at European level.

Following extensive and sometimes militant protests by French farmers over farm gate prices, the French Minister had pinned his hopes that supply management measures would allay some of the farmer anger.

However, the French industry’s position, that the measures are on a pan-European basis, looks set to heap pressure back on Le Foll to achieve some form of mandatory milk supply management across Europe.

Such a move has already seen strong opposition from many EU Member States, including Ireland.

Following the industry meeting, Minister Le Foll said he assured processors of his determination to ‘mobilise all Member States’ so that everyone takes what he called ‘responsibility’ that the measures work.

The French Minister also said that the industry must act quickly and he is with the dairy industry in trying to meet the urgency of the situation and said he would build solutions with them to what he called a ‘crisis of overproduction’.

In the lead-up to the Council, the Irish Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney expressed his total opposition to supply controls and, at the meeting, reiterated Ireland’s view that constraining EU production would amount to a free gift to our global competitors, as well as slowing recovery in the European Union when markets improved.

“I also voiced our opposition to the allocation of any new EU funding to incentivise such reductions. These arguments found favour with many of my colleagues around the Council table.

“While I remain concerned about the inclusion of supply control provisions in the Presidency conclusions, the measures are voluntary and limited and actions taken by producer organisations and other first purchasers of milk are of a temporary nature.

“They do not and will not constitute a return to quotas. It is very important that we emphasise that point – something we made very clear at the Council and which was confirmed in its conclusions,” he said recently.

Timeline

The European Commission measures to allow EU Member States introduce voluntary milk supply management could be in place as soon as the middle of April.

It is understood that key Member State and EU officials met last week to flesh out the implementation of the new measures which will also see the planned to doubling of intervention ceilings for skimmed milk powder and butter in place as early as next month.

The conclusions of the last meeting of EU Agriculture Ministers provided for a temporary facility, allowing producer organisations, inter-branch organisations and co-ops in the dairy and pigmeat sectors to control supply among their members on a voluntary basis, in response to very strong lobbying on the issue from France and other Member States.