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Minister Smith to press the Commission further on Dairy Markets

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith TD, said today that he would continue to exert pressure on the European Commission to provide every available support to Irish dairy farmers during the current deep crisis in dairy markets that are so badly affecting dairy farmers' incomes. The Minister has been to the forefront in pressing the Commission since last November for the activation of market measures, with some considerable success.

The Minister expressed his disappointment however that markets had remained disappointingly weak. As a result, farmers across the Community, and farmers in Ireland in particular, are facing very severe difficulties in making ends meet. "Prices are historically low and while the Commission has made every effort to stabilise the situation, there is no real sign that a recovery is in sight". Continuing, the Minister said: "I am concerned that the market continues to show resistance, and price returns to dairy farmers in Ireland are now at levels that threaten the very viability of many farm enterprises".

The Minister said that the Government would continue to seek further steps that may assist in reversing the downturn and stimulating the market further. This would include prolonging the intervention purchases of butter and skimmed milk powder, and the private storage scheme for butter beyond their normal closing dates in August. "I believe that the role that private storage plays in particular, but intervention too, are such that their continuation after the normal end dates will be crucial in evening out the supply/demand curves and preventing further market turbulence at a time when supplies would otherwise hit commercial markets". Acknowledging that there are legal impediments to be overcome the Minister said that the market situation warrants an exceptional response on this occasion.

He also reiterated his commitment to press for the removal of the 'free at frontier price' for cheese to allow the payment of export refunds on cheese exports to international markets outside the European Community in the quantities demanded in the market. "This self-imposed impediment preventing the export of cheese does not make sense to me in the current environment and I want to see it removed at the earliest opportunity".

The political concern for the dairy market is such that the matter was raised on Monday last at the General Affairs Council. The Minister will raise the matter again, for the fourth Council in succession, at the Farm Council in Luxembourg next Monday.

Date Released: 17 June 2009