AN initiative by the Swedish presidency of the European Union to set up a special farm council meeting on October 5 to discuss the dairy crisis was welcomed yesterday.
Copa and Cogeca, the representative bodies for European farmers and co-ops, urged the ministers to take rapid political decisions to help solve the unprecedented crisis facing dairy farmers.
Copa president Padraig Walshe warned in a letter to farm council president Eskil Erlandsson that the crisis in the dairy sector is causing huge income losses for farmers, forcing many of them to go bankrupt.
“We believe the global EU losses could reach up to €10 billion. In view of this desperate situation, we urge EU politicians to agree on strong market measures to help improve the situation,” he said.
Cogeca president Gert Van Dijk said the Swedish presidency’s initiative to arrange an extra Agriculture Council meeting should help to reinforce the EU’s credibility in tackling the critical situation facing dairy farmers.
Meanwhile, the members of the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee made the case for Irish dairy farmers during a meeting with the European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Mariann Fischer Boel.
Committee chairman Johnny Brady, TD, said the members highlighted the severe pressure Irish dairy farmers are under.
“We were very clear with the commissioner that Irish dairy farmers are at risk of going out of business entirely unless the problems are urgently dealt with.
“We also raised the issue of rationalisation of the Common Agricultural Policy, food security, the phasing out of milk quotas, the role of multiples in the agri-food industry and sheep tagging,” he said.
Mr Brady said Ms Fischer Boel acknowledged the seriousness of the challenges being faced by Irish dairy farmers.
”She pointed out that the market is coming back into balance and that this should now begin to be reflected in the milk price paid to farmers,” he said.
Mr Brady said the committee was informed that steps have been taken to ensure that the Common Agricultural Policy Health Check and Economic Recovery Package will free up €4.2 billion to meet new challenges including the restructuring of the dairy sector.
“Commissioner Fischer Boel said the global economic crisis hit demand for milk very hard and that this was a problem that the EU alone could not solve.
“While the committee acknowledged these issues, they outlined the difficulties being experienced by Irish dairy farmers and appealed for every support possible from the EU,” he said.
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