Timing of EC offer criticised

Ray Ryan, Agribusiness Correspondent

ICOS president Donal Cashman said the offer risks undermining the EU negotiating position in the WTO talks and will make it more difficult for the commission to strike a fair and balanced deal.

He told the society’s annual general meeting in Dublin that the offer, made to kick-start the world trade talks, is a major development and marks a change in the EC approach.

“If export refunds were to be eliminated, it is very likely that it would result in a further reform of the milk sector, which would involve further price reductions.

“Such a reform would go beyond the Luxembourg agreement, which was agreed on the basis that it would provide the necessary reforms that could cater for the next WTO agreement,” he said.

Mr Cashman said he was also opposed to the manner in which the commission has reduced export refunds and casein aid over the past couple of months.

“These changes have prevented the dairy sector from getting the benefits of the improved international market situation outside the EU.”

Mr Cashman said the ICOS would continue to lobby strongly for the commission to use its milk market support mechanisms to deliver stronger returns.

He urged Farm Minister Joe Walsh to oppose the approach of EU Farm Commissioner Franz Fischler, when he presides at next week’s Council of Ministers’ meeting.

In a changing environment, Mr Cashman said Ireland has a strong co-operative platform, from which to develop strategies and structures that will position the sector to overcome the challenges ahead.

“It is critically important that we apply a positive, business like approach to putting in place the optimum strategies and structures for the future.

“These challenges apply in particular to co-operatives in the dairy and livestock mart sectors and I encourage co-op directors and management to focus on these opportunities when they are developing strategies for the future,” he added.

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