Union in EU meeting over sustained low milk prices

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Ulster Farmers’ Union Dairy Committee Chairman Jonathan Moore has attended the COPA-COGECA Milk Working Party and European Commission Civil Dialogue Group meetings in Brussels.

Concerns have emerged that many key decision makers in the European Commission are failing to grasp the extent of the problems facing dairy farmers throughout Europe.

Farm-gate prices are still stuck below the cost of production in many Member States which could remain the case for a prolonged period of time.

Mr Moore said: “The UFU have concerns that there are huge gaps between highest and lowest EU farmgate prices, ranging from 57/c/l in one Member State to 22.2 c/l in the Baltic. Adding to this, there are also gaps in the milk price within individual Member States, as illustrated in the UK, with the GB average price falling by 31% over the last 12 months, compared to 45% here in Northern Ireland.

“There is however positivity in the market in that the demand for dairy products remains in place, but rather it is the high levels of milk production that are holding back the recovery in milk prices.

“At a local level, ever since farmgate prices started to fall almost 12 months ago, the UFU has remained frustrated at the lack of action taken by the European Commission on this matter. Back in March when Commissioner Hogan visited Northern Ireland he was asked specifically about the dairy situation at an EU level and at that point he refused to accept that the price being offered to farmers had dropped to 22-24ppl. Since then, the DARD farm-gate price for March has been recorded as 22.54ppl which is putting substantial pressures on local on-farm cash flows.”

Mr Moore continued: “With the price being paid for milk at such a low level we are strongly urging the Commissioner to take action and address the problems facing the dairy sector before it’s too late.

“Our sentiments are reflected by COPA-COGECA who have called on the Commission to take action and to give consideration to proposals such as a Margin Protection Programme, the use of Futures Markets and fixed price contracts. There is also an immediate need for the Commissioner to review the Intervention price, something we have called for repeatedly.

“If product levels in EU stores do not move before the end of the summer there is a real danger that Intervention could be triggered and it is crucial that it is at an adequate level.”