EU Milk Package Clarity Sought

04 February 2011
SNP Member of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee Alyn Smith has written to European Commissioner for Agriculture Dacian Ciolos to seek clarity on the current proposals on reforming the milk market.
The European Commission has brought forward proposals to regulate the EU milk market which, while broadly welcome, do not go as far as Smith wants - or the Commission appeared to have previously been intending - to strengthen primary producers.

Smith has questioned the Commissioner as to why some important clauses have been dropped from the final text, in particular why the draft text on written contracts has been dropped and he is also seeking clarification on whether milk producers will still be subject to exclusivity requirements or not. Smith is very much of the view that producers should have the freedom to contract with whomsoever they choose, and should not be subject to exclusive supply contracts unless they freely agree and are recompensed accordingly.

Smith said:

"The proposals that have come from the Commission are good, and are certainly heading in the right direction, but it seems that the original text that we saw from the Commission was far more orientated towards the side of the producers. I want to know what happened to that.

"We know that Ciolos did first-class work for his farmers in Romania while he was Agriculture Minister there so I'm guessing that his intentions are good but the legislative text has been watered down by some last minute lobbying. I hope to strengthen his hand.

"I expected that written contracts would not remain compulsory for member states - an oversight I hope to rectify by amendment - but I was disappointed to see that the option for producers to demand a contract in member states where contracts are merely voluntary has been dropped from the final text. This potentially puts these farmers at a competitive disadvantage to those farmers in member states who can demand a contract by law. This is especially important given how likely it is that the UK government would opt for voluntary contracts only.

"The ongoing crisis in the milk sector proves the old adage that if I were heading to Tiperarary I would not start out from here! As a lawyer to trade it staggers me that such an odd market practice exists at all, especially given that the legal imbalance is so clearly not working. I believe that these measures: to strengthen the bargaining power of milk producers, and to create the conditions for fair written contracts; will go a long way to correct these imbalances and to develop a properly functioning market."