The president of the European Milk Board Romuald Schaber has called for EU Agriculture Minister Phil Hogan to be removed from office.
In an open letter to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Mr Schaber has claimed that Mr Hogan is not doing anything to stop the collapse of the milk market.
He has given the EU president until December 4th to reply to his letter calling for a meeting as a matter of urgency.
The open letter, published on the website of the European Milk Board, claims the situation of European dairy farms is deteriorating every day.
It continues: “For months now, farm-gate milk prices in many countries have been only 25 and 30 cents per kilo, while it has been proven that production costs are higher than 40 cents. Some farms have already gone bankrupt. Others can only continue producing with the help of further loans of tens or hundreds thousands of euros. The reason for these dramatic developments is the imbalance between supply and demand on the dairy market.
“Nevertheless, at the last Agriculture Council, Commissioner Hogan spoke again about a stabilisation of the milk market. This was just yet another statement in a series of comments that make us doubt that Phil Hogan really wants to find a solution and whether he is capable of doing so,” the letter continues.
“In January, the Commissioner still completely denied the existence of a crisis in the milk sector. End of September, in a TV interview with ViEUws, he declared that it is not true that milk prices do not cover production costs: ‘I don’t think that many farmers are producing at below the cost of production. They say that they are, but at the end of the day they continue to produce’.
“Such declarations are not in line with the reality of the market and show the Commissioner’s lack of expertise in the field of agriculture. As a matter of fact, Commissioner Hogan has access to several scientific studies, which prove that generally farmers do not receive a milk price that allows them to cover their cost of production,” the open letter states.
“For several reasons, a great majority of dairy farmers are nonetheless virtually obliged to try their utmost to maintain production. Milk is simply not comparable to regular industrial products, whose production can just be halted one day and started again the following one.
“According to article 39 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, it is the Commissioner’s responsibility to ensure a fair standard of living for the agricultural community. Only with an adequate income can agricultural diversity, with all its positive effects on the regions’ development, be sustained.
“The current negative trend is dangerous for EU agriculture. What will therewith be destroyed cannot be recovered. Interactions between market players need to be characterised by fairness and responsibility as well as an open eye on real market developments,” the letter adds.
“The price volatility of the last years also showed: short-term financial aid does nothing to change the essence of the problem! Therefore we call you to seriously study the crisis instrument put forward by the EMB and other organisations, which is based on voluntary production cuts.”