The European Commission has ruled out extending the dairy quota system past its planned expiry date.
In the week UK farmers took to the streets to protest about plunging prices, industry insiders said there had been “rumblings of pressure” to retain milk quotas across Europe past 31 March 2015 in response to dairy market volatility.
But Roger Waite, spokesman for European Commissioner for agriculture and rural development Dacian Ciolos, this week told The Grocer there would be “no change” to the decision to end the quota system. The EC had provided a “soft landing” for nations since 2008 by increasing available quota limits, he added.
And a Brussels source said it was “politically unlikely” such a proposal would be made by the Commission or gain traction among a majority of member states.
Waite added that even if the EC were to change its mind and propose to extend the quota regime, there would not be enough time for political agreement with the European Parliament and the Council before March 2015.
Such a move would also risk legal challenges from dairy producers over their expectations of the end of the quota scheme and investment in increased production ahead of the abolition of quotas, he said.
The Commission’s clarification followed a statement by a coalition of German farmers, NGO Germanwatch, and the European Milk Board last week for measures to curtail “even larger milk surpluses” post-quota, and to promote “sustainable family farming.”
There had also been calls for the EC to implement “some sort” of supply management system, said dairy industry analyst Ian Potter, in order to mitigate the effect of falling milk prices, a lack of demand from China, and an increase in production levels across Europe.