A German-French proposal to reregulate Europe’s milk sector has won support from 14 other countries at a meeting of the European Union’s agriculture ministers.
Around 800 Belgian farmers were demonstrating outside, as the prospect of an EU-wide strike by producers crept closer. Exposed by reforms to the rigours of the market the milk producers are in trouble with low prices. And quotas which help keep their livelihoods stable are due to disappear compeletely six years from now. The supportres of the proposal said delaying reaction to the current milk crisis meant running the risk of doing longterm harm to rural areas. However, the Swedish minister, whose country currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, rejected outright the French-German proposal. Other, traditionally liberal, northern member states agreed with him. The proposal seeks to keep EU provisions for storing milk in times of weak demand, until prices rally. It calls for national fixing of minimum prices, and labelling improvements such as saying ‘French milk’. Yet even the dairy professionals are divided over how to deal with the problem, the main French farm union FNSEA, for instance, judging that a milk strike would be an “abberation.”