EU farm leaders have called for Brussels to intervene in key agricultural markets, which they say are on the brink of collapse.
With farm incomes currently at 1990s levels, Padraig Walshe, president of Copa Cogeca (the organisation that represents the interests of European famers and farmer co-operatives), is urging ministers to consider methods to prop-up the agricultural industry.
“The economic crisis has seriously hit EU farmers, with a huge income drop of 12% seen last year. Some sectors were particularly affected, with drops of as much as 30% seen in the EU cereals sector and 21% in the dairy sector. Urgent action must be taken to prevent a complete collapse of the EU farm sector.
“There must be reasonable management of dairy stocks and full use of market management tools in the cereals sector. In the long term, adjustments to the CAP post-2013 must focus on measures to enable farmers to withstand crises. In addition to maintenance of strong common market measures, we believe that market risk management tools and export promotion tools should be examined more.”
Copa suggests a key way of ensuring a sustainable future for European agriculture is the increasing use of co-ops, while the dominance of the supermarkets is blamed for much of the depression in incomes. The organisation gives the example of a loaf of bread which can sometimes be 30 times the farmgate price, with farmers receiving just 8% of the retail price.
* Dairy farmers’ share of the retail price of their products has fallen from 31% to 24% over the last decade, according to COPA-COGECA.
“EU farmers’ income is less than 50% of average earnings and EU dairy farmers’ revenue has dropped by more than 20% over the last 10 years,” said Mr Walshe.
“They are being squeezed by low farm prices and high production costs. Current measures to manage the market, such as the EU public intervention system for milk and dairy products, must be retained, keeping the EU intervention floor price effective.”
In addition, he advocates the use of other tools, such as insurance, to manage market risks and protect farmers against extreme price volatility.