‘We need to avoid buying in SMP stocks under intervention next year’

The European Commission needs to avoid buying in skimmed milk powder (SMP) stocks under intervention next year, without due market justification, according to the EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan.

The commissioner made the comments as he addressed the Food Wise Conference in Croke Park today (Monday, December 4).

During his address to the conference, he said: “When it comes to the issue of skimmed milk powder (SMP) stocks, we have to manage our public intervention from two angles.

“First, how to realistically proceed with the release of the existing stocks – because the stocks have to be sold at some stage. Second, how to prevent any further build up next year and to do it in a way that we can manage the market for the farmer.

In relation to SMP stocks, the product has to be sold. But we also need to avoid buying in under public intervention next year without due market justification.

“The European Union does not exist just to provide another outlet for a product for which a commercial market cannot be found – that’s your job,” Commissioner Hogan said.

He outlined that we are now entering a key negotiation period for the next EU budget, where the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is going to come under some pressure.

“You all understand the implications of Brexit, which is blowing a huge hole in the overall EU budget. The commission’s communication (on CAP 2020 proposals) acknowledges that there are a number of new challenges that are on the horizon, for which money will be required.

“In this context, all the spending policies – including the CAP – will come under scrutiny.

Now if I am to be in the strongest possible position to defend the CAP, which currently amounts to around €58 billion/annum, I cannot go to those negotiations with my fellow commissioners – or indeed some member states or some members of the European Parliament – with 500,000t of SMP in storage.

“I need all stakeholders to understand and to strongly support the narrative I am trying to construct for the policy – which is that a smart, sustainable, market-orientated agri-food sector can contribute to multiple political commitments of the Juncker commission,” the commissioner said.

The ‘Food Wise Conference 2017: Challenge, Ambition, Opportunity’ is being hosted by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and it will run until later this afternoon.