ICMSA warns on dairy sector sell-out

A SELL-OUT of the dairy sector in world trade talks is the real agenda behind the dismantling of milk quotas by the European Commission, the leader of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association Jackie Cahill has claimed.

He warned that such a sell-out would leave Irish and other European dairy farmers selling milk at world prices plus three or four cents.

“The alarms should be ringing loudly in every office in the Irish dairy sector now but, almost unbelievably, we still have those who are unwilling or unable to see the threat looming up in front of them.

“It has been decided that quotas will go as part of any likely WTO process and with the world in the grip of the present recession, a trade agreement is now much more likely than when last attempted last year.

“Those still arguing for the dismantling of quotas and continued production expansion are unwittingly helping the Commission to destroy their own sector,” he said.

However, Mr Cahill said a formal demand by the Franco/German alliance for a suspension to the Commission’s policy of expanding quota in preparation for their abolition is the first welcome sign that sanity might yet prevail in the formulation of EU dairy policy.

“It represents a huge breakthrough for those of us who have long identified the policy of expanding quotas to the point of abolition as being the prime destabilising factor in the collapse in dairy prices and dairy income.

“The commission can go on defying every shred of logic and economics in pretending that increased production was not affecting price, but the two most important governments in the EU have weighed up the evidence and found themselves in complete agreement with the position taken 18 months ago by the ICMSA and our European affiliates in the European Milk Board.

“The pressure must now come on our own department to forget about the nonsense and get on the winning side in this struggle for the future of the European dairy sector,” said Mr Cahill.

However, European Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel rejected claims that the decision to phase out quotas is to blame for the dairy crisis. “This claim is not only wrong, it is also counterproductive. In the last quota year, production fell by 0.9% despite the increase in quotas. In the EU we are 4% below quota overall. If we make quotas the scapegoat instead of facing up to the real problems, how will we ever stand a chance of fixing them?”

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