30 years of milk quotas – but what now?

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DUP MEP Diane Dodds has commented on the forthcoming landmark for the dairy industry, which will see the removal of milk quotas at the end of this month.

This system was first introduced in 1984 in an effort to control milk production across Europe.

Mrs Dodds said that with 30 years of milk quota within Europe coming to an end this month, the pressing question going forward has to be what happens next?

She added: “It has become clear that the Republic of Ireland, and indeed many other Member States, have additional heifers calving down and have built capacity to be able to produce more milk. As one farmer from the Irish Republic remarked - “it’s like Christmas Eve for us”. In particular, the European Commission needs to monitor the upcoming impact of removing quota, and have measures in place to deal with any upset which may be felt in the marketplace.

“The European Agriculture Commissioner, Phil Hogan, made it clear this week at Committee that he did not see a crisis in the dairy sector, and continued to paint a picture of all that is good. I took the opportunity to remind him of the fact that many farmers in Northern Ireland are producing milk below the cost of production, and that both the Dutch and Global Dairy Auction had experienced falls in their prices recently,” said Mrs Dodds.

“The Commissioner must not bury his head in the sand to the fact that if we have favourable weather conditions this Spring - coupled with the removal of milk quota - we will most likely see an over-supply of milk, which may ultimately affect prices.

“I feel it is important to note that the Commission has been proactive in ensuring that the Republic of Ireland in particular received flexibility in dealing with the cost of the super-levy. I do hope that this same flexibility, which to date has been lacking, can be used to increase the intervention price to a more realistic level. There remains no point in having tools to deal with volatility if they are not fit for purpose.”

Mrs Dodds said that at this week’s sitting of the EU Agriculture Committee, MEPs also discussed the review of the dairy package.

“What is clear from that discussion is that the package of measures did not go far enough to protect dairy farmers, especially with depressed milk prices and many Member States highlighting its failings. We need a dairy package which robustly deals with the unfairness within the supply chain, volatility and ultimately which protects farmers,” she added.