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The Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS) has expressed disappointment at the decision by the European Commission and Council of Ministers to agree to the introduction of voluntary supply management measures at yesterday’s Council of Agriculture Ministers in Brussels (14 March 2016).

ICOS President, Martin Keane stated today:

“The depth and duration of the crisis affecting dairy farmers and co-ops is greater than anyone anticipated. I am extremely sceptical as to whether voluntary, supply management measures will work in practice, as the European dairy sector has been competing at global levels since the reduction of market support measures nearly a decade ago. However, dairy markets are cyclical and it is to be hoped will turn in time as we experienced in 2006, 2009 and 2012.”

“Under no circumstances should mandatory supply measures be considered, if the market slump persists through 2016 as most commentators expect. Throughout the quota era, European dairy farmers lost considerable ground on international markets to countries such as New Zealand. We are once again putting at risk the future of the Irish dairy sector by going down the road of supply management.”

“The co-op movement in Ireland will continue to assist our farmers as best we can in 2016. I welcome the decision at the Council to increase the “de-minimis” state aid level to €15,000 in one year. This provides the Government with a real opportunity to introduce national measures such as the proposed ICOS “5-5-5” income stability tool. However, it is essential that a level playing field is maintained across the EU, which is a core principle of the Common Agricultural Policy. The European Commission needs to carefully monitor individual national measures in order to prevent the introduction of anti-competitive practices.”

“ICOS welcomes the doubling of the quantitative ceilings for intervention for SMP and Butter. However, we also believe that it is necessary to extend the buying-in period to the end of the calendar year. In addition, greater action is needed at EU and National level to mobilise EIB funding to put affordable capital into the industry.  Finally, we also await the work of the European Commission, which is examining the feasibility of an EU export credit tool.”