How to stabilise the dairy market
On 7 September, EU agriculture ministers discussed various possible ways to support milk farmers and stabilise the market. They agreed that effective action must be taken to relieve the difficult situation. At the same time, a controlled phasing-out of quotas will be pursued in line with earlier decisions.
A number of measures have already been activated to counter the drop in farmers' incomes caused by severely reduced demand. For instance, member states can make direct payments to milk producers earlier than usual, from 16 October instead of 1 December. Through intervention buying, the European Union purchases and stores butter and skimmed milk powder. Export refunds have been reintroduced for most dairy products.
In addition, the EU's rural development policy offers a number of ways to support dairy farmers. These include support for environmentally friendly practices and improved animal welfare.
There is broad agreement about the need to enhance market transparency and to tackle any anti-competitive practices in the food chain. It has been suggested that a new Europe-wide system for monitoring food prices be set up. It would provide better information on prices and quality to consumers, public authorities and market operators.
Ministers' discussions were based on a Commission report on the dairy market situation in 2009. They also covered recommendations by the High Level Group on the Competitiveness of the Agro-Food Industry.
Council press release (pdf)
Council webcast of press conference
Commission website: Milk and milk products
High Level Group on the Competitiveness of the Agro-Food Industry