Responding to remarks made in the EU Parliament by Commissioner Hogan that “dairy farmers must take their responsibility for the continuing increase in production”, the ICMSA President, John Comer, said that the Commissioner is completely wrong in attempting to make farmers responsible for the dairy farmer income wipe-out when the blame for the current crisis lay squarely with the EU Commission, individual national governments and processors. Mr Comer said that the reality is that individual farmers are being forced to produce more and more in an effort to simply try and stand still and unless their processor decides to implement a voluntary supply reduction scheme, the farmer simply has no other option. The processors simply wanted to get more milk for their processing plants and the position of farmer-suppliers was absolutely secondary to that consideration, he said.
As for the Commission’s “responsibility”, Mr Comer noted that we have repeatedly been promised action to correct the power of the multiple retailers. “Since the start of 2014 farm-gate milk prices are down by over 40 percent while the prices paid by consumers for dairy products have fallen by approximately 2%. The farmers’ margin has been decimated and has been gobbled up by the stronger links further along the supply chain. This is a key problem and has been repeatedly identified as such. Responsibility lies with the EU Commission to address it and nobody else has the power to do so. As the farmers’ margins have been obliterated, more and more have had to chase on volume what they’ve lost on margin and that increased production, in turn, had enabled the retail corporations to cut prices to suppliers again and so the whole spiral continues downwards with dairy farmers facing income wipe-out right across the EU. It’s actually difficult to imagine a more cut-and-dried case of official neglect and victim-blaming than the behaviour of the Commission in relation to the relentless dismemberment of what’s left of the EU’s family farm system”, said Mr Comer.
“If farmers are to respond, the Commissioner needs to give them the power to do so. The implementation of the current Voluntary Supply Reduction scheme is based at Co-op level and it’s perfectly clear that our processors want milk for their plants and the position of their suppliers are secondary to that. The processors will not implement such a scheme and that’s been the experience across the EU. They will all make a profit this year regardless of the milk price paid. The Commissioner needs to change the rules of the voluntary supply reduction scheme and give the power to individual farmers to take a decision to reduce production or not. This is a fundamental point: a farmer has the choice to cut production, stand still or increase production and I firmly believe if such a voluntary reduction scheme was introduced at a reasonable rate across the EU then milk production would fall back and bring the market back into balance”, noted the ICMSA President.
“Farmers will fix this problem and the market will be brought back into balance but the Commissioner and the EU Farm Council need to give us the power to do so. Our Minister needs to support a voluntary supply reduction scheme that puts the viability of milk suppliers over volume for processors. Farm families believe they are being sacrificed and it’s up to the Commissioner and others to prove that that isn’t the case”, concluded Mr. Comer.
Ends 30 May 2016.
John Comer, 087 2057846
Cathal MacCarthy, 087 6168758
ICMSA Press Office