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Smith in EU move to support Dairy Farmers

Fifteen EU Member States, including Ireland, have called for major improvements in support for hard pressed dairy farmers.

Speaking after a meeting of the EU council of Agriculture Ministers yesterday, Minister Brendan Smith said "my fellow Ministers and I are agreed in calling for additional rapid action at EU level to deal with the very serious situation on European milk markets driven by the global economic crisis.  The group of 15 Ministers called for a comprehensive EU approach combining immediate short-term measures along with a medium term strategy to deal with volatility in the milk sector.  This position was also broadly supported by several other countries".

A statement signed by the 15 Ministers called for:

  • a temporary increase in the intervention price, and careful management of the disposal of intervention stocks,
  • increased export refunds for butter, milk powder and cheese, while avoiding any distortions in developing country markets
  • reactivation of aid for use of milk powder in animal feed
  • consideration of measures to modernise and adapt the dairy sector.

"In addition to these immediate measures the Member States concerned recognised that we must learn from the recent experience of extreme volatility in producers' incomes.  In particular we called for existing market management instruments to be adapted and new ones created in order to be able to deal more effectively with such market volatility in future" said Minister Smith.

The Minister also noted that he and many others in the Council expressed great concern about the increasing divergence between prices paid to farmers and those charged to consumers.  Ministers overwhelmingly supported recommendations from a high-level group to examine the balance in relationships between retailers, processors and producers and to improve the transparency of price formation at every stage in the food chain.

Minister Smith said that he was heartened by the strong support from so many other Member States for effective action on these issues.  "I think what we saw at the Council was an important meeting of minds on what needs to be done" said the Minister. "What is now critically important is for these countries to continue to work closely together to ensure that this leads to real and immediate action leading to the recovery in the EU milk market and realistic prices for farmers."

Date Released: 08 September 2009