Saturday

29th Jul 2017

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.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

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.

News in Brief

  1. EU citizens will need registration to enter UK in Brexit transition
  2. Italy weighs up sending navy into Libyan waters
  3. Swedish PM fights for survival amid IT scandal
  4. Poland's Kaczynski vows to continue judicial reform
  5. Werner Hoyer re-appointed as EU investment bank chief
  6. Spanish PM denies knowledge of party corruption
  7. France 'routinely' abuses migrants, says NGO
  8. Swedish government rocked by data scandal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFReport: Children on the Move From Africa Do Not First Aim to Go to Europe
  2. Counter BalanceOut for Summer, Ep. 2: EIB Promoting Development in Egypt - At What Cost?
  3. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  4. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  5. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  6. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  7. ECPAFood waste in the field can double without crop protection. #WithOrWithout #pesticides
  8. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  9. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey
  10. Martens CentreWeeding out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  11. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  12. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Ep. 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug

Latest News

  1. UK and EU stuck on 'philosophy' of Brexit bill
  2. Europe needs a policy for peace in Nagorno-Karabakh
  3. Spain's PM appeals to court over Catalan independence
  4. Senate backs Russia sanctions, setting scene for EU clash
  5. France and Italy quarrel over shipyard and Libya
  6. Corbyn re-opens Labour's single market wound
  7. Visegrad lobby makes food quality an EU issue
  8. EU court could dismiss national borders in cyberspace