EU unveils milk shake-up plans

UK - The European Commission on Thursday proposed a raft of mini-reforms it says will simplify the EU market for milk and dairy products.
calendar icon 17 February 2007
clock icon 4 minute read
The modifications foreseen concern private storage, butter intervention, import licences, drinking milk and aids for school milk. This package of rather technical measures also envisages to allow the standardisation of the rate of proteins in preserved milk.

The milk package contains amendments of the following three pieces of legislation:
  • Council Directive 2001/114/EC relating to certain partly or wholly dehydrated preserved milk for human consumption
  • Council Regulation (EC) No 1255/1999 on the common organisation of the market in milk and milk products and
  • Council Regulation (EC) No 2597/97 laying down additional rules on the common organisation of the market in milk and milk products for drinking milk.
"The proposed changes will continue our ongoing exercise of simplification, which is very important to me," said Mariann Fischer Boel, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development. "There are many things we can do to make the rules in the dairy sector work more effectively. In particular, I am keen to introduce a single rate of aid for the school milk programme. This will allow us to reflect changing consumer preferences and give more freedom to the Member States to decide how to organise the scheme on a national level."

Concerning Directive 2001/114/EC, EU dairy industry and exporters of milk powders and condensed milk have for a long time requested a modification of the rules on protein contents in such products to put them in line with international standards (Codex) of a minimum content of 34% expressed in fat free dry matter. At the moment the natural protein content in milk powder ranges from 31% to 37%. The proposed change will allow EU producers to be on an equal footing with their competitors from outside Europe who produce according to those Codex standards and who have until now enjoyed a relative economic advantage over EU producers.

Concerning Regulation (EC) No 1255/1999 the amendments proposed aim to simplify in relation to the following measures:

Introduction of a single rate of aid for school milk

As the current scheme is considered quite complicated and cumbersome, it is proposed, with a view to simplifying the system, to have only one rate of aid, irrespective of the sort (fat content) of milk delivered to pupils.

Removal of the intervention trigger system for butter

The European Commission wishes to eliminate the administrative burden brought about by the opening and suspension of butter intervention, which depends on the market price recorded in each Member State. Under the new proposal, the Intervention agencies would simply be able to buy butter at 90% of the intervention price from 1 March to 31 August or until the overall Community ceiling has been reached.

Removal of certain aids for private storage

As aid for private storage of cream or SMP has not in practice been used in the past by operators as support for the dairy market, the two measures can be considered obsolete and should be removed from the basic dairy Regulation.

Community definition of butter quality

For the purpose of certain Community market measures it is proposed to replace the 27 national quality classes for butter with a single quality definition.

Compulsory use of import licence to be abandoned

The compulsory use of the system of import licences is no longer considered as necessary as more appropriate systems (e.g. the DG TAXUD monitoring system) exist.

Removal of disposal aid for military forces

An obsolete scheme which should be abolished. Council Regulation (EC) No 2597/97 currently provides that only three categories of drinking milk may be produced and marketed in the Community:
  • skimmed milk (0.5% fat or less),
  • semi-skimmed milk (between 1.5% and 1.8% fat)
  • whole milk (3.5% fat or more).
In order to respond to changes in nutritional habits (tendency towards consumption of dairy products with less milk fat), as well as to comply with the general objective of encouraging the production of agricultural products which are demanded by the market, it is proposed to allow production and marketing in the EU of milk with fat contents outside the three abovementioned categories, provided that clear and readable information on the fat content is provided on the label.

The proposal would at the same time make a number of national derogations obsolete and provide for increased trade among Member States.

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