phil hogan

Struggling dairy and pig farmers are set to get more help as part of a raft of new measures designed to support the EU’s agriculture sector unveiled by the European Commission this week.

European commissioner for agriculture Phil Hogan announced the package of measures yesterday (14 March) in recognition of the “depth and duration of the current agricultural crisis”, which has seen prices plunge across the EU due to oversupply of key agricultural commodities – caused in part by the ongoing Russian trade embargo on Western foodstuffs.

Hogan claimed the package of exceptional measures, which focuses on the dairy, pigmeat and fruit and veg sectors and will be made available through the Common Agricultural Policy, would have a “material and positive impact on European agricultural markets”.

For dairy, the package includes an increase in quantity ceilings for the Commission’s skimmed milk powder and butter storage intervention scheme from 109,000 tonnes and 60,000 tonnes respectively to 218,000 tonnes and 100,000 tonnes.

The Commission has also pledged to activate, for a limited period of time, the possibility to enable dairy producer organisations, interbranch organisations and co-operatives to establish voluntary agreements on curbing production and supply. It has also decided to temporarily permit member states to offer emergency aid up to a maximum of €15,000 (£11,756) per farmer per year.

A €30m (£23.5m) promotional budget for the pigmeat and dairy sector would be doubled to “reflect the market disturbances in those sectors”, while the Commission would consider the introduction of a new private storage aid scheme for pigmeat, added Hogan.

A new Meat Market Observatory covering beef and pigmeat, would also be set up in order to better monitor the market and share valuable information on trends.

“In the interest of EU farmers, I am prepared to use all instruments that the legislators have put at our disposal, both as a short term and long term measure,” Hogan said.

“We must use the appropriate instruments and actions to enable farmers to be resilient in the face of volatility whilst providing immediate assistance to them,” he added. “Today’s response is a comprehensive one, taking on board as many of the proposals as can be done, within the legal and budgetary constraints that apply to all of us.”

The package was welcomed by Dairy UK chairman David Dobbin, who noted it was “essential there is an effective floor in the market and an outlet for short term surpluses”.

Increasing the quantity ceilings in the Commisison’s storage intervention scheme would “help avoid even greater downward pressure on milk prices in the current global over supply situation”, he said.