The EU’s Agriculture Commissioner has reportedly signalled that the bloc could provide some financial help to dairy farmers protesting over milk prices.
According to a Reuters report yesterday (25 May), Mariann Fischer Boel indicated that the EU could provide subsidy payments in advance to help farmers suffering from low prices.
Farmers from across Europe headed to The European Commission in Brussels yesterday to continue their demonstrations and to put pressure on the EU agriculture ministers meeting in the Belgian city.
After meeting with farmers outside the building, Fischer Boel said she understood the plight of the dairy farmers and suggested financial help could be on its way.
“I do take it seriously that our dairy sector is in an unprecedently difficult situation with extremely low prices,” Fischer Boel told a news conference after the ministerial meeting, according to Reuters.
“I did go out there and talk to [the demonstrators]. I am not scared … although I did have the impression that some of them had definitely not only been drinking milk,” she said.
Fischer Boel said she would suggest that farmers could receive a protion of their subsidy payments earlier than planned.
“We will be … able to make it possible for member states to pay 70% of the direct payment from 16 October to alleviate the difficult economic situation that some farmers are facing,” she said.
“It’s simply a question of lower demand. What farmers need to do is to produce less, only produce less,” she told reporters. “Consumers are not buying high-quality milk products they used to buy before the financial downturn.”
The European Commission has come under pressure to unpick its recently approved dairy liberalisation reforms in the face of collapsing prices on the world dairy market.
Fischer Boel again reportedly stood firm and said the EU would stick with the reform process.
“It’s simply a question of lower demand. What farmers need to do is to produce less, only produce less,” she said. “Consumers are not buying high-quality milk products they used to buy before the financial downturn.”
German farmers were among those protesting in Brussels yesterday and they signalled their anger at the low level of prices.
“Dairy farmers across Europe are completely pushed to the brink and, economically, now have their backs against the wall,” Ernst Halbmayr, a board member of the European Milk Board, said.
Farmers in France yesterday followed through with plans to hold nationwide protests over milk prices, with dairies owned by companies including Bongrain, Lactalis, Sodiaal seeing demonstrations.
Reports in France suggest a fresh round of government-mediated talks could be held between farmers and dairy processors on Thursday.