Trade body Dairy UK mixed praise for the “positive steps” to support the dairy industry but called for action on the intervention price.
The measures focusing on trade and exports, promotion and volatility were in line with the group’s key priorities, said its chief executive Dr Judith Bryans.
“However, we are very disappointed by the Commission’s stance on the review of the intervention price,” said Bryans. “Although we agree with and fully support a market-oriented industry, exceptional times call for exceptional measures. Increasing the intervention price would help stabilise the market and give the dairy industry a much-needed immediate relief.”
The National Farmers Union (NFU) questioned how much of the €500M aid would benefit British producers.
NFU president Meurig Raymond said: “We appreciate the €500M for dairy farmers across Europe, particularly as this comes at a time when EU budgets are under tremendous pressure. It is currently unclear how much of this would come to Britain.
“However, one of the main priorities is the short-term cash flow difficulties facing farmers across all sectors. The Commission has announced that Member States can pay up to 70% of their direct payment from October 16, provided that the necessary checks have been carried out.”
But a potential stumbling block was the flexibility required for checks and inspections so that Member States do not run the risk of a disallowance fine, he added.
“This proposal from the European Commission is inadequate and too vague.”
- Richard Lochhead, Scottish government
Raymond also voiced disappointment that the Commission would not review the intervention price in the dairy sector. “An increase in the [intervention] price could help put a price floor in the market and boost confidence in the dairy sector. We will continue to press the Commission on this point.”
Scotland’s rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead complained it was unclear how the funding will benefit Scottish farmers – if at all.
‘Lacks urgency and substance’
“Like many member states the Scottish government is concerned that, although today’s package touches on important issues, it lacks urgency and substance,” said Lochhead.
“This proposal from the European Commission is inadequate and too vague. It does refer to the cash flow, market and supply chain issues the industry is currently facing, but we urgently need clarity on what it means for Scottish farmers both in the short- and long-term.”
Focusing on dairy, beef and pigmeat producers, the aid package offered no help to sheep producers, he added.
The aid package was unveiled at the Agriculture Council meeting on Monday (September 7) – the same day British farmers joined a mass demonstration of 5,000 farmers in Brussels.
Environment secretary Elizabeth Truss said ahead of the meeting: “I recognise the seriousness of the current situation for our hardworking farmers and I will be pushing the EU Commission tomorrow for urgent action to help them through this turbulent time.”
Dairy farmers were a vital part of our £100bn food and farming industry, she added. “I want to support the industry to become more resilient and ready to take advantage of the growing demand for British dairy both at home and overseas.”