Baltic dairy sector backs Finnish milk farmers at Brussels demo

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About a score of representatives from Baltic and Finnish dairy farms held a gathering outside the European Parliament (EP) Wednesday afternoon to urge the EU to provide more active support in the form of financial compensation for losses due to the Russian embargo on almost all European food imports. One of the immediate and most painful outcomes was a milk glut that drove prices into a plunge and now threatens many farmers’ livelihoods in the near future.

Under the slogan “Solidarity Milk” the dairy farmers held mock milk bottles with the flags of all four countries – Finland and the three Baltic states as well as bottles full of real milk, cheap as it comes, to hand out to EP legislators and EC Agriculture Commisioner Phil Hogan.

While dairy producers from Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia each received earmarked packets of modest funding from the EC in November, their counterparts in Finland have yet to see any help, despite being equally affected by the price crisis stemming from the trade war between the EU and Russia.

A delegation from the group were inside meanwhile meeting with MEP members of the Budget and Agricultural Committees, which are working on the possible supplemental emergency funding requested for the EU’s entire farming and food production sector, of which the Baltic dairies are but one part.

The milk-herd cow farmers are hoping for a satisfactory outcome in the EU budget that would provide a buffer account worth around €300m.

Later MEPs from Finland, Latvia and Estonia came out to greet the picketing farmers and hear their concerns. Poland's MEP Radoslav Sikorsky, who chairs the Agriculture Committee, made a promise to be firm in defending the compensations in coming talks with Commissioner Hogan.

Maira Dzelzkalēja of the Latvian farmers’ non-governmental organization (NGO) Zemnieku saeima told Latvian Radio’s afternoon interview program Pēcpusdiena the money should come from a common European crisis fund, not from the agriculture budget as such.

Otherwise, she warned, the milk producers would not be able to endure to pressure on prices and the sector would undergo a shrinkage.

“We see our milk businesses can compete in the common European market and we want this sector to survive this crisis,” she added.

Latvia has allocated a €7.9m compensation package to its farmers, but it doesn’t go far enough to avert real worries of forced shut-downs at some farms where the money is set to run dry while the milk keeps flowing in the months to come.


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