The European Milk Board (EMB) coordinated several campaigns last week to promote an EU-wide milk volume reduction scheme and to attack private storage aid measures for butter, milk powder and cheese.
Erwin Schöpges, Belgian dairy farmer and president of the EMB, said the milk demonstrations sent an important signal to policy-makers.
“Skimmed milk powder has now become the EU-wide symbol for the misguided crisis measures implemented by the European Union in the dairy sector. These measures must take a different direction if they are to have any real effect in counteracting the crisis,” Schöpges said.
The EMB said the coronavirus crisis has caused the demand for milk products to collapse.
Italian EMB executive committee member Roberto Cavaliere said the shut-down of schools, kindergartens and public institutions, coupled with the almost complete standstill in the hospitality and catering sector, has led to a drastic reduction in the purchase of milk products.
“We are currently producing way too much milk and this volume needs to be reduced EU-wide,” Cavaliere said.
“We dairy farmers are ready to take on our share of the responsibility and participate in a volume reduction program coordinated by the European Commission.”
Boris Gondouin, a French dairy farmer and also an EMB executive committee member, said the subsidies do nothing to change the difficult reality faced by dairy farmers during the crisis.
“Especially milk prices for producers are falling. However, €30m ($32.5m) – as announced provisionally – are spent on subsidies for processed milk products and will go to the private industry. This means that the current EU measure was taken for the processing industry, not for the farmers,” Gondouin said.
Johannes Pfaller, dairy farmer in Germany and EMB executive committee member, said, “It is totally absurd to waste resources to make products for which there is no demand. Simply for these products to then be put into storage using subsidies.”
Danish dairy farmer and EMB executive xommittee member Kjartan Poulsen said this is not the first time the EU has chosen the wrong crisis-management instrument.
“Dairy farmers from the EMB and other associations highlighted the issue of massive stocks building up in storage back in 2017 with a large milk powder demonstration in Brussels. It is therefore our urgent appeal to the EU to stop using the instrument of intervention storage and to start working together with dairy farmers, so that we can implement a volume reduction programme together,” Poulsen said.
The Europe-wide demonstrations are set to continue with some German producers announcing further demonstrations in the coming days.