EU member states that exceeded their annual milk quotas will pay a total of EUR19m (US$26.4m) in fines – down sharply from EUR99m run up a year earlier.

Denmark, the Netherlands and Cyprus produced more milk than they were allowed in the year to the end of March.

The three countries over-ran the “deliveries quota”, which covers milk delivered to dairies. Netherlands will pay EUR13m, Denmark will cough up EUR5.7m and the Cypriots will hand over EUR125,000.

The Dutch will also pay EUR631,000 for exceeding the “direct sales” quota, which covers products sold direct to consumers.

In 2008/09, the member states that exceeded the quotas paid EUR99m in so-called “superlevy fines” – a year earlier, it was EUR340m.

In 2009/10, total deliveries fell 0.6%, which, the European Commission said, reflected the “difficult market situation”.

EU commissioner for agriculture and rural development Dacian Ciolos added: “The 2009/2010 quota year will only be remembered for the particularly difficult market situation witnessed in so many member states.”