The European Commission has said it will not reverse its policy of phasing out milk quotas, despite fresh protests by dairy farmers over a“catastrophic” situation in the milk market.


The European Milk Board (EMB) and European Coordination Via Campesina (ECVC) producers have demanded measures that restore equilibrium to the milk market, enabling a rise in prices paid to producers.


However, in a report out yesterday, the Commission said it remains committed to phasing out milk quotas by 2015.


“We have to do all we can to help our milk producers, who are having to deal with a dramatic fall in prices,” said Mariann Fischer Boel, commissioner for agriculture and rural development.


“We will continue to use all the measures we possess to stabilise the market. But, as clearly stated by the European Council, we will not reverse our policy of gently phasing out quotas. Putting this into doubt would only create uncertainty and would do nothing to help the situation anyway.”


The report set out a catalogue of measures that the Commission said will help alleviate the “very difficult market situation”.


The Commission will continue to use instruments such as intervention, private storage aid and export funds, and it will also allow member states to pay up to 70% of direct payments to farmers from 16 October instead of 1 December.


Other measures include an additional round of dairy product promotion programmes, levies on producers who exceed their quota to finance voluntary retirement from milk production, and a modification of the ‘temporary crisis framework’ for state aid.


NFU dairy board chairman Gwyn Jones backed the Commission’s report and said the additional support measure offer a “proportionate short-term response”, which has the potential to “inject greater support and stability into the market”, without deviating from current policy.


“This is important,” Jones said. “Farmers require certainty as well as predictability. The certainty has to be that quotas are finished. All those organisations and governments that are looking to the European Commission to provide simple solutions to the crisis in the EU dairy sector are looking in the wrong direction.”


Jones added: “I’m pleased the report sticks to the plan – creating a competitive market-orientated industry that is less reliant on public support.”