Photos: Farmers spray milk powder in prices demo

European milk producers have urged EU officials to stop selling stocks of skimmed milk powder (SMP), for fear it will destabilise a recovering market.

To emphasise the point, members of producer lobby group, the European Milk Board, assembled in Brussels on Monday (23 January) and sprayed SMP at the Justus Lipsius building, where EU farm ministers were holding their monthly farm council.

A fire is lit by a tractor at a milk price protest


“Milk producers all over Europe are still in the throes of the crisis,” said EMB vice-president Sieta van Keimpema.

“Milk prices are currently at around 30 euro cents/litre (26p/litre), but with production costs of 45c/litre (38p/litre), we are still suffering daily losses.

“To increase the pressure at this juncture and offer milk powder from intervention on to the market is highly problematic.”

See also: Milk market recovery reflected by EU SMP stock release

There are some 354,000t of SMP held in intervention stores – taken off the market in 2015 and 2016 to try and shore up falling prices.

People walk past a building covered in milk powder

© Isopix/REX/Shutterstock

The commission has held a series of tenders in recent weeks to start the process of offloading this surplus, though only a small amount has actually left public storage as the tender prices have come in too low.

A man holding a flag stands surrounded by a cloud of milk powder

© Isopix/REX/Shutterstock

Despite this, the EMB is also calling for the introduction of a permanent Market Responsibility Programme (MRP), to supplement intervention.

This would include a voluntary reduction programme, as was used successfully last year, and a cap of production to avoid future surpluses.

This would be better than straight intervention buying, it says, which simply creates new stocks of powder, which then weigh down on the market.