EMB Newsletter March/April 2019
Dear dairy farmers, dear interested parties,
Drastic times call for drastic measures
The pictures from Sardinia cannot leave you indifferent: In mid-February, sheep-milk farmers on the Italian island poured thousands of litres of milk on the streets after prices dropped to an unacceptable level. Most recently, the price paid by dairies for a litre of sheep's milk was 60 cents – significantly below production costs. In order to increase the pressure on processors and policy-makers, sheep farmers decided to stop deliveries without further ado and to pour away their milk instead.
As an Italian (and European) milk producer, I can only express my solidarity for Sardinia's farmers. Milk has its value – our work has its price! Ten years ago, during the crisis year that was 2009, our colleagues in France and Belgium sprayed their milk away on their farms in order to draw attention to the unsustainable situation on the dairy market. Since its founding, the European Milk Board (EMB) has always campaigned for fair prices and a fair income for farmers. That is a basic requirement to keep the dairy sector alive in all regions in Europe in the long term.
EU policy is changing, but very slowly. The EU Directive on unfair trading practices was adopted in mid-March by the plenary session of the European Parliament. This is an important step to ensure better protection for producers in the food supply chain.
Intervention stocks have now been reduced by 99%. Agriculture Commissioner Hogan boasts that the almost 400,000 tonnes of skimmed milk powder stocks "have been prudently released, maintaining market balance and supporting the recovery of the dairy sector, following the 2015-2016 market crisis." He, however, forgets to mention that the European Commission was greatly responsible for the previous market crisis: powder stocks mainly piled up due to the European Commission implementing the wrong measures or taking too long to react. The fact that the milk powder stocks were sold off at prices well below intervention level during the tendering process is also something that is swept under the rug. There is no information available about those selling and buying the intervention powder – this process has been anything but transparent!
The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform is an opportunity to implement fair conditions for us milk producers. Three reports related to the CAP are currently being discussed in the European Parliament. The future of agriculture is on the line. The MEPs in the Agriculture Committee of the European Parliament have submitted several hundred amendments to the report on the Common Market Organisation, including constructive proposals like "voluntary volume reduction to counteract market disturbances".
A well-equipped EU agricultural policy could make such drastic actions by milk producers a thing of the past!
Roberto Cavaliere, EMB Executive Committee member and President of APL Italy