Dairy farmers in line for more EU support

The mixture of Russian sanctions and low prices that have adversely affected Latvia's dairy farmers are to be eased slightly by new European Union measures designed to support the dairy sector.

In order to prop up milk prices, the European Commission (EC) on July 18 offered €500 million in aid to farmers across the 28-member bloc, according to the AFP news agency, with just under €10 million destined for Latvia.

For comparison Lithuania will receive €13 million, while Estonia is in line for €8 million. 

The largest amounts will go to Germany, France and Italy.

"The European Commission today presented new assistance measures worth €500 million of EU funds to help farmers to overcome the existing difficulties in the market, especially for dairy production," said an EU statement.

EC Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan said: "Coming at a time of significant budgetary pressures, this package provides a further robust response, and means that the Commission has mobilised more than €1 billion in new money to support hard-pressed farmers. 

"Our ultimate goal is to see the much needed recovery of prices paid to farmers, so that they may make a living from their work and continue to provide safe, high quality food for citizens, as well as their contribution to rural areas and rural jobs and the provision of public goods."

In a telephone conversation with Latvian Television from Brussels Latvian Minister of Agriculture Janis Duklavs said that aid was paid to all EU countries according to the same rules, and this time around governments would have less discretion in what they did with the cash.

"Last time, when we were given 8.6 million [euros] we were told that we could do what we wanted with it, pay it to whoever we wanted, but not this time. This time it will be strictly directed how this should happen," said the minister.

However, despite the announcement, the details of the package remain to be decided and "will be finalised in the coming weeks, in consultation with Member State experts. The budget implications of the proposed measures will be incorporated in an amending letter to the draft budget 2017 in the autumn," the EC said.

Around €150 million of the total will be dedicated to "incentives to reduce production" on a "voluntary" basis.

Monday's announcement comes in addition to a separate package for €500 million that was presented by the Commission last September.

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