French milk producers need help from EU as pandemic grinds on

On 8 April, French Agriculture Minister called on the European Commission to help milk producers with surplus production due to low demand from the export and restaurant sectors.
calendar icon 9 April 2020
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According to Reuters, French dairy farmers fear slackening demand will lead to a major surplus of milk just as the spring grazing season boosts cows’ productivity – there’s a risk that prices could collapse.

"We have worked to reduce milk production and we ask the European Union to take its responsibilities. Today it is absolutely necessary to store milk, store powder, see how things can be done to ensure that this sector lives as well as it can," French Agriculture Minister Didier Guillaume told reporters.

"We are in an extraordinary crisis, we need responses that are not ordinary. The (European) Commission, the EU, the European Commissioner must move."

Guillaume was having a video conference call with his German counterpart in the afternoon to discuss the matter, he said.

French milk industry body CNIEL has asked the Commission to allow it to set up a temporary solidarity fund to compensate farmers who limit output.

At the end of last month 40 million litres of milk, or 18 percent of the total volume collected weekly, were in surplus and would have to be redirected towards storage for butter and milk powder or else dumped, farm union Cooperation Paysanne said, also calling for a milk output cut.

Weaker demand and staff absences due to the novel coronavirus epidemic have also disrupted factories in the dairy sector and elsewhere in the food industry.

Ice cream maker Froneri, part-owned by Nestle, said it had suspended output at its three French plants for two weeks up to Easter.

The European Union's chief agriculture official said on 7 April that billions of euros in unspent rural development funds could be diverted to farmers and that a sustainability overhaul to EU farm policy might be delayed.

However, EU Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski resisted calls from some farmer groups to use import curbs to protect sectors during the coronavirus crisis.

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