Saturday

26th Sep 2020

EU says milk protest 'difficult to understand'

  • Protesting farmers had sprayed milk powder on the Council building (Photo: European Milk Board)

The European Commissioner for agriculture Phil Hogan said on Monday (23 January) he had difficulty understanding why dairy farmers were protesting in Brussels, given the recovery of milk prices in the last six months.

Hogan spoke at a press conference following the first EU Council ministerial of the year, with agriculture ministers from the EU's national governments.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Protesting farmers had sprayed milk powder on the council building earlier on Monday, and called for a "permanent crisis instrument".

But Hogan noted that the price of milk has gone up by 25 percent since August 2016, “at least in part due to the commission's actions”.

“It's difficult to understand the basis for which protests have been organised outside the council today,” said Hogan.

The market situation of dairy farmers has become “a regular feature” on the agenda of the agriculture ministerial in the past 18 months, he noted. It was also discussed on Monday.

Because the EU's milk quota scheme ended in April 2015, and dairy production shot up, the price of milk has seen a drop, although it has more recently recovered.

Although the agriculture budget is fixed for six years, the European Commission still found aid packages last year. In 2015, it unveiled a €500 million aid package.

The Irish commissioner said that he “acknowledged the fragility of the market”, and that he was not being “complacent”, but that the situation has improved.

“The average price across the European Union is now higher or as high in most member states as in January 2015,” he said.

The average EU price for a litre of milk was 32 cents in November 2016, the most recent data available. During the summer of 2016 it had dropped to just under 26 cents.

There are differences between countries, with member states that became a member since 2004 at the lower end of the price spectrum, however.

Avian flu

Farm ministers and Hogan also discussed the effects of an outbreak of avian flu on poultry farmers, at the request of Dutch agriculture minister Martijn van Dam.

In November 2016, his government introduced a mandatory confinement for all poultry.

That includes chickens whose eggs are sold as free range. Farmers are allowed to continue giving those eggs the label free range for 12 weeks of confinement, but after that, they have to be sold as barn eggs, at a lower price.

“It would be a shame if so many poultry farmers should incur such damages, especially those who are frontrunners, who have invested in free range and animal welfare,” Van Dam told EUobserver.

He called the EU rules "rigid" - and indeed the relevant legislation says marketing eggs as free range from poultry that is under health restrictions is allowed "but under no circumstances for more than 12 weeks".

However, Hogan gave little prospect for an exception.

“There is no easy solution to this matter,” he said, noting that the commission has to strike a balance between helping the farmers and helping the consumers.

“At the end of the day we also have to protect the consumers who are paying a premium price for these products,” said Hogan, who noted the issue required “further reflection” and that the commission would be working on the issue “over the next couple of weeks”.

When asked whether that work will be done by the 1 February deadline, Hogan referred to his colleague Vytenis Andriukaitis, the EU commissioner in charge of health.

EU farming crisis to stay 'for some time'

Agriculture commissioner due to present package of relief measures next week but said he's "constrained" by financial resources and by EU legislation.

Why are European farmers unhappy?

EU farm ministers will hold a special meeting to discuss the pressures facing farmers across the bloc. But many factors are beyond their control.

EU forecasts deeper recession, amid recovery funds row

The economies of France, Italy and Spain will contract more then 10-percent this year, according to the latest forecast by the EU executive, as it urges member state governments to strike a deal on the budget and recovery package.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector
  3. UNESDAReducing packaging waste – a huge opportunity for circularity
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID-19 halts the 72nd Session of the Nordic Council in Iceland
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCivil society a key player in integration
  6. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular

Latest News

  1. Berlin repeats support for EU human rights sanctions
  2. China's carbon pledge at UN sends 'clear message' to US
  3. Far right using pandemic to win friends in Germany
  4. Visegrad countries immediately push back on new migration pact
  5. Why no EU progress on Black Lives Matter?
  6. EU migration pact to deter asylum
  7. 'Era of EU naivety ends', MEP pledges on foreign meddling
  8. Anti-mask protesters pose challenge for EU authorities

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  2. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  4. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis
  6. UNESDACircularity works, let’s all give it a chance

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us