21 April 1995

Few EU benefits for Finlands dairymen

MILK prices in the UK may be riding high, but Finnish dairymen are suffering cuts. And the prediction is for further falls.

Finland joined the EU on Jan 1, 1995. As part of the "European-isation" process national government price support for farmers is being cut to bring Finland into line with other member states.

Dairy farmer Esa Peura is philosophical about the EU: "Because of our harsher climate and higher costs, most farmers were strongly opposed to the decision; it is hard for us to compete. But Finland has few raw material resources so there were other industrial advantages to joining."

Mr Peura milks 32 cows plus followers on 100ha (250 acres) in central Finland. Average yields are 6500 litres a cow, so he struggles to fill his 333,000-litre annual quota.

All milk is sold through the national co-op, Valio, for which he currently receives about 35p/litre. Over the next five years the price is predicted to fall to 25p/litre. In UK terms that may seem like a fair price. But for small Finnish farms, higher feed costs and shorter growing days for crops and forage add up to production costs greater than the 25p/litre predicted income.

Should the Finnish government be unable to negotiate better national support for farmers, Mr Peura says the outlook is bleak. &#42