Return to controls on milk production on the cards at key EU meeting

European Agriculture Ministers meet in Brussels today as Commissioner Hogan is set to unveil a new package of measures to address the current dairy market crisis.

However, there is now a widespread belief that the new measures will include increased measures to curb milk production throughout Europe.

It is now being widely speculated that any further EU funded financial assistance for dairy farmers will be predicated on farmers reducing milk production.

The Irish Co-operative Society has warned that the provision of EU funds to dairy farmers with the conditionality of reducing production would set an ‘enormously dangerous precedent’.

It says that Irish dairy farmers for decades have been constrained by high quota prices and super levy.

“The European Commission will be effectively abandoning farmers in Ireland who have expanded over recent months in order to support their families’ future.

“Whereas a farmer in another country, who has all his expansion completed, courtesy of no super levy can now benefit from supports for easing back slightly.”

However, milk supply management has support amongst some in the Irish dairy sector with the ICMSA its most vocal proponents.

The ICMSA President, John Comer, said that he hoped this week’s aid package would deliver meaningful measures aimed at increasing the milk price.

He said that a package of measures that brought forward the Basic Payment Scheme by a few weeks or a direct payment of a few hundred euro would be utterly irrelevant to dairy farmers in their current circumstances.

“Dairy farmers want one thing and that’s an improved milk price. This can be achieved either by an improved intervention price or measures to voluntarily reduce milk supplies.

Comer said that there is a possibility that the issue of a voluntary reduction scheme with a cents-per-litre payment will be tabled at todays Council meeting. However, he said that he expects – and trusts – that it will be ‘completely voluntary’ so giving individual farmers the flexibility and freedom to decide how the figures will work out for them.

“This clearly means that individual farmers can increase or decrease their supply depending on their own individual circumstances.

“The package has to address the reality of current over-supply; that has to be faced and dealt with, and enabling farmers to make the decision that best suits them individually is – we feel – the best option right now.

“The market needs to be able to see a supply reduction coming if we’re to see meaningful price rises. Just hoping the supply-demand imbalance will magically go away isn’t an option – and policymakers should stop pretending that it is”, stated Comer.