EU - Germany opposes plan to increase milk quotas
Germany opposed a plan, being considered by EU farm ministers, to increase milk quotas by two percent this year.
BRUSSELS, March 18, 2008 - Germany on Monday opposed a plan, being considered by EU farm ministers, to increase milk quotas by two percent this year, with France also voicing concerns owing to volatility in the sector.
"I will refuse" to back the measure, German Agriculture Minister Horst
Seehofer, whose country is the main producer in Europe, told reporters as he
arrived for the meeting with his EU counterparts in Brussels.
"Prices have been falling for several weeks already and a quota rise would
put prices under further pressure and put the future numerous producers in
jeopardy," he said.
He stressed the need in particular to provide specific aid to farmers in
mountainous regions who do not have the option of switching to non-dairy
production should prices fall further.
French Agriculture Minister Michel Barnier also expressed reservations.
"I can understand that we could increase the quotas very moderately this
year because the demand is there, but I would warn against any decision that
could have significant consequences in the future," he said.
He therefore said he was in favour of regulatory tools which would allow
decisions to be taken on future quota increases with regard to market
conditions so as not to destabilise areas which cannot switch to non-dairy
France was set to abstain in the vote on the quota increase, while Germany
and Austria were expected to vote against it.
In that case there would not be sufficient opposition to prevent the
measure, which does not require unanimous agreement, from going through.
EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel, arriving for the day of
talks between European farm ministers, said research showed that "the market
can absorb more" milk production.
She described the increased purchasing power in China and India as great
opportunities for the European dairy market, not least for European cheeses
with their "excellent reputation".
The two percent production hike would bring an extra 2.84 million tonnes of
milk onto the market after it takes effect, as expected, on April 1.
EU milk quotas are due to be lifted in 2015, but the European Commission
wants to begin phasing them out early due to signs that booming demand is here to stay.
The quotas are the legacy of a by-gone era when Europe's dairies produced
more milk than Europe could consume or export, leading to infamous lakes of
milk bought up by the EU to help keep prices from collapsing.