EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan has confirmed that the re-opening of the Russian market to European food imports is a distinct possibility in the near future.

“A dialogue has opened up between Brussels and Moscow on this issue,” he said.

“The situation is more fluid than was the case a number of months ago. President Putin, I assume, is a pragmatic man. Obviously, he wants to see that his people are fed. Russia’s intervention in Syria is also a factor in this debate. So there may well be scope for Moscow to soften its stance on EU food imports.”

Hogan addressed the 2015 ICMSA annual conference in Limerick. He said that the European Commission remains committed to retaining a sustainable farming industry in Europe.

“I recognise that 2015 has been a difficult period for Irish dairy farmers.  This is why I pushed to get a €500m aid package for Europe’s milk sector.

“I did not opt to press for an increase in dairy intervention prices.

But the decision to amend the Aids to Private Storage measures will have a significant impact.

“In the first instance this represented a support measure that could be introduced immediately. The reality is that 200,000 tonnes of milk powders and cheese will be taken off the market over the coming months.

“Irish co-ops have already started making use of this facility, which should serve to strengthen the tone of EU dairy markets.”

Hogan confirmed that he wants to provide farmers with more certainty within the agri food chain.

“If required, I will introduce legislation over the coming 12 months to ensure that farmers do get a fair crack of the whip in this regard. But I must also be mindful of the fair competition regulations that already exist when progressing this matter.

“I remain optimistic for the future of dairy in Ireland. Approximately 150m people will enter the global middle class per year. This is the market which Irish farmers and food companies must target.”