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Minister Smith Attends Special EU Meeting on Situation in the Milk Market

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Mr Brendan Smith TD today attended a special meeting of EU Agriculture Ministers in Brussels to discuss the situation in the dairy market. The meeting arose out of numerous bilateral discussions in recent weeks - including discussions in Paris between Minister Smith and his French counterpart - and provided an opportunity to Member States and the Commission to have a full and open discussion on the very difficult market situation being faced by dairy producers.

Minister Smith said that he was pleased that the focus of discussion at the meeting was on both the immediate situation facing producers and on the measures to be put in place in the medium term to manage the market and deal with volatility in the run up to and beyond the ending of milk quotas. He welcomed the establishment of a High Level Group of Member States to be chaired by the Commission's Agriculture Director General in order to examine the type of arrangements to be put in place.

Specifically the High Level Group will work towards defining the legal means for producers to engage in proper dialogue with processors and retailers in order to rebalance these relationships.  Market instruments will be examined with a view to making them more effective in dealing with volatile market circumstances. Indeed the Minister said he was very pleased that the Commissioner has already agreed to bring forward some short-term measures at the next Council, including a new provision that enables the Commission to take emergency measures in cases of market disturbances where internal market prices significantly rise or fall. The High Level Group will also be asked to examine and report on the scope for greater monitoring and supervision of the market situation in order to ensure full transparency at Community level. It will consider also innovation and research in the sector, quality health and labelling as well as the possibilities of a futures market in the dairy sector. The High Level Group will examine also the experience of non-EU Member Countries in managing the markets.

Minister Smith added that holding a special meeting on milk had been very useful. Along with a group of 20 Member States with whom he had been working closely - including participating in a meeting prior to the Special Council - Minister Smith outlined very clearly the situation being faced by dairy farmers as a result of weak prices. He also said that now that the decision has been made on the ending of milk quotas, it was essential that the regulatory and support framework be put in place to operate in such a scenario.

Minister Smith welcomed the Commission declaration that stocks of butter and skimmed milk powder would not be released from intervention until the market situation has been stabilised.  'I have been pressing for the commitment for some time, believing it to be indispensable to the proper functioning of the market as we commence the recovery to more sustainable milk prices for producers and consider today's statement by Commissioner Fischer Boel to be very timely'.

The Minister concluded by saying that the Agriculture Council would return to the situation of the milk market at it's next meeting on 19th October in Luxembourg.

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Brendan Smith TD with his German counterpart Ilse Aigner at today's special EU meeting of agriculture Ministers in Brussels on the dairy market situation.

Date Released: 05 October 2009