29 May 2009

EU farm chief offers assistance to dairy sector

5:35 am on 29 May 2009

EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel has offered to advance EU subsidy payments to all eligible farmers to help them cope with low prices and poor exports.

France, Austria and Germany want an increase in EU aid to the dairy sector. They say their producers are badly hit by the weaker market and want firm action to shore up farmer incomes.

Dairy farmers have protested in several EU countries about low milk prices, putting pressure on their governments to help.

At a meeting of farm ministers, Ms Boel said she would propose that all eligible EU farmers - not just in the dairy sector - would be able to receive 70% of subsidies two months earlier than usual, as of mid-October.

France told the meeting that EU cheese exports fell by 10% in the first quarter and butter exports by 3%.

The commission has already taken a number of measures to shore up dairy markets, including reinstating export subsidies and private storage.

It has also raised ceilings on volumes of butter and skimmed milk powder that can be bought into public intervention stores, to remove supply from the market.

Dairy prices have roughly halved in the last few months.