Nicholson comments on developments in dairy sector
ULSTER Unionist MEP and the European Parliament’s rapporteur on the EU Dairy Package, Jim Nicholson has commented on recent developments in the dairy sector.
He said: “In recent weeks we have seen dairy farmers organising demonstrations in a bid to highlight the impact of falling milk prices on their industry and livelihoods. It should not however be necessary that our hard-working milk producers should have to go to such lengths to bring about increases in milk prices.
“A range of factors mean that the dairy sector is in uncharted territory at a time when the costs of production are continuing to rise. The decision to abolish milk quotas in 2015 was taken by Agriculture Ministers of the EU Member States (the Council) in 2005/06 when the situation facing the industry was very different. At that time the then Agriculture Commissioner, Mariann Fischer Boel, promised a ‘soft landing’ for the dairy sector, this has not materialised with many now beginning to question the decision to end the quota system.
“One of my main aims when working on the EU’s Dairy Package was to help ensure that farmers had greater bargaining power, throughout that work it became abundantly clear that co-operation between all parts of the supply chain was essential for the success of the EU’s dairy sector. The power of the major supermarkets in this supply chain is beyond the remit of the Dairy Package and I have repeatedly raised producer concerns surrounding this ‘elephant in the room’ in both Brussels and Strasbourg. Volatility in world markets means that there is an even greater need to work together so that everyone in the supply chain can get a fair share of what is paid at the checkout, for producers this is key and helps to ensure investment for the future encourages new entrants,” added Mr Nicholson.
“The recent protests on mainland Britain would suggest that there have been some weaknesses in the existing system in terms of contracts. At the request of governments and as part of the Dairy Package these issues are to be addressed locally rather than centrally in Brussels - this means that differences that exist within the EU can be taken into account - with recent negotiations between producers and processors being part of this process in action. It is important that any outstanding issues within the supply chain are effectively addressed now to help ensure the long term success of the industry and to allow all parts of the dairy sector to progress and make the most of future opportunities.
“Given my role as rapporteur I still have a part to play in how the dairy sector moves forward, in recent months I have sought to ensure that the Commission does not repeat past mistakes and I will continue to bring any issues of concern to the attention of both the Council and Commission.”
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