The European Parliament backed its agriculture committee in supporting an optional 2% increase in EU dairy quotas from 1 April.

MEPs said yesterday (12 March) that the hike should not be made mandatory for member states, allowing countries with weaker dairy export potential to maintain higher prices.

"Our responsibility goes beyond mere market liberalization," said committee member and German Christian Democrat MEP Elisabeth Jeggle.

EU ministers can ignore the parliament if they wish, however, and they back a European Commission proposal for a compulsory 2% dairy quota hike across the bloc.

The Commission wants to increase quotas to meet growing demand in the EU and internationally.

The Commission is proposing regular dairy quota increases before abolishing all controls in 2015.