Republic fights to up milk output

IRELAND is battling against mounting odds to be allowed produce more milk as part of the review of the EU common agricultural policy (CAP).

Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith yesterday set out Ireland’s three priorities at the meeting of ministers discussing the review, known as the CAP health check, in Luxembourg. The main issue for Ireland, and the most contentious issue for the review, is how milk quotas will be phased out by April 2015.

The European Commission has proposed that countries be allowed increase their production by 1% a year over the next five years before the market opens up completely.

However, Irish dairy farmers say they need to ramp up production by a greater percentage before that date if they are to take advantage of the open market in 2015.

Carol McGinley in Brussels for ICOS, the creamery milk suppliers, said that even though Irish farmers have experienced a drop in milk prices over the past two months, they still believe they should be allowed increase milk production by 2% a year. Ten other countries are in the same position but the rest are divided between supporting the commission’s 1% increase proposal and others that want no change.

Another important issue for Ireland is shifting money from direct aid to farmers to rural development. The commission wants a compulsory 8% taken from farmers who receive more than €5,000 in direct aid, and use it instead for rural development. Mr Smith said he is absolutely against this proposal and he wants further to simplify the methods of EU payment to farmers.

However the commission says the increased fund would help meet the challenges and opportunities faced by European agriculture, including climate change, the need for better water management, and the protection of biodiversity.


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