SPAIN – Anxious farmers have been reassured that measures are in place to guide Spain’s dairy sector into the uncharted territory of quota removal next month.
Government ministers have expressed confidence in income support through the Common Agricultural Policy and Royal Decrees of the dairy package, saying the industry is going in the “right line”.
However, farmers have pressed the government to support dairy’s “difficult transition” to the new system.
Speaking at a meeting at the Agriculture Ministry head offices, Secretary General for Agriculture and Food, Carlos Cabanas, called on a “change of mentality” in the dairy sector.
This follows a market study showing 40,000 tonnes of milk were produced over quota in 2014.
He said producer organisations require strengthening as a key negotiating body and underscored contracts of over one year in length to improve professional relations.
However, farmers are not so sure. Union leaders have said the huge investment to modernise farms must be considered.
Farmers in Spain’s northern dairying heartland have been vocal, suggesting the sector needs to “ally and strengthen”.
This was the rallying call sent from ASAJA (The Young Farmers Association) which pinned the blame on weakness in market structure, dubbing it an “endemic weakness” in the country.
The association said the industry was competitive and efficient but cents were lost in logistics and distribution.
“In milk, more than any other sector, increasing farm size has been necessary to survive,” said an ASAJA spokesperson.
Spanish farms are as efficient as their French, German, Belgian and Dutch competitors, ASAJA added.
Alluding to milk marketing ploys such as discounting in the shops, the spokesperson added: “It is imperative to support the administration, if possible tightening the distribution industry and eliminating losses through sales practices.”
They added that weight needed to be placed on the primary sector in the supply chain.
A raft of measures is being rolled out to support the industry long term given quota termination as of April. Regionally focused payments for hill farms, knowledge transfer initiatives, young farmer subsidies and a regional milk marketing campaign “land of taste”, being endorsed by a range of supermarkets.