EU commission rejects milk quota changes

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EU will not lower milk production quotas despite fierce opposition from dairy farmers and their representatives.

Brussels – The European Commission on Wednesday will reject any freeze or cut in milk quotas despite demands from France and Germany and dairy farmers hit by falling prices, according to a draft document.

"Quota system changes would not respect the outcome" of decisions taken to adapt the EU's Common Agriculture Policy to confront the sector's needs, said the text to be published Wednesday.

In recent months, European farmers have ramped up protests in search of support through financial aid or by limiting supplies, as dairy product prices collapsed due to low demand caused by the financial and economic crisis.

Since 2007, milk prices have in the worst cases halved.

The commission, the EU's executive arm, has agreed to introduce very targeted aid to the sector but has refused to go back on its decision to scrap the quota system.

"Putting this policy into doubt would only create uncertainty, delay the restructuring process and render no service to the many dairy producers and their families who need clear guidance as they plan for their future," the draft document said.

Quotas were introduced in 1984 to support prices and tackle the then notorious butter mountains and milk lakes in Europe created by overproduction.

The European Milk Board, which represents EU producers, has been demanding a cut in quotas for weeks, and its president lashed out at the commission's refusal to budge.

"It's incomprehensible to see such rigidity," said EMB president Romuald Schaber. He called for "voluntary production limits" and European financial aid.

"It would cost three times less than to leave things as they are today, producing a surplus that has to be bought artificially and then put into storage after," he said.

The new vice-president of the European parliament's agriculture committee, Greens lawmaker José Bové, also attacked the commission's stance as "autistic" when "farms are closing and farmers are sometimes committing suicide."

"The only way to have milk prices that match the real costs is to lower production volumes," the French politician said.

AFP / Expatica

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