EU farm ministers fail to set milk market measures

European farm ministers have failed to agree on measures to ease the superlevy fine for overproduction in the last year of milk quotas.

Proposals to tweak the butterfat coefficient, which adjusts milk deliveries if the fat content exceeds or undershoots a base level, did not get the qualified majority needed in the Council of the European Union in Luxembourg.

Northern European countries like Ireland, Austria and the Netherlands, who are ramping up milk production before quotas end in 2015, have sought a “soft landing” to lessen the impact of any fines.

But other member states like France have argued for crisis management tools and support for nations with weaker dairy sectors.

After the meeting, EU agriculture commissioner Dacian Ciolos said milk market issues would continue to be discussed.

“The commission, at the request of the council, can exercise its powers on request, but it cannot act on its own bat and needs clear political support that [previously] decided on the butterfat situation and which decided on ending milk quotas,” he said.

See also: EU to explore tools for volatile milk market

Any changes in the milk sector will now have to be made under future presidencies of the EU Council, which rotates to Italy in July.

European farmers’ group Copa-Cogeca addressed the council before the meeting with three demands: any superlevy gathered should stay in the dairy sector for use elsewhere, the butterfat coefficient should be adjusted and ways to manage price volatility should be explored.

BEU milk production in March

  • Denmark: 437,600t, 4.4% up on the year
  • France: 2,316,400t, 8.4% up on the year
  • Germany: 2,725,600t, 5.1% up on the year
  • Ireland: 484,500t, 0.5% up on the year
  • Netherlands: 1,083,800t, 4.3% up on the year
  • Poland: 879,200t, 7.9% up on the year
  • UK: 1,293,000t, 13% up on the year

Mansel Raymond, Copa-Cogeca working party chairman, said it was disappointing decisions had not been reached.

“Why take the money out of the milk sector and make the sector less competitive?” he said.

“We need to show the world we are open for business as buyers are looking at Europe as a potential large exporter.

“It is down to the commission to send the right signals to the market.”

EU dairy farmers produced 143m tonnes of milk in 2013-14 – 2.8% more than the previous year.