Posts Tagged ‘European Council of Young Farmers’
The European Commission launched its new Milk Market Observatory in April. In this month’s regular column from CEJA (European Council of Young Farmers), we asked President, Matteo Bartolini to outline what can be expected from this new body.
MF: What is the purpose of the Milk Market Observatory (MMO) and what is the background?
MB: It is designed to publicly provide data transparency, complemented by market analysis, short-term outlook reports and regular meetings of an economic board. This will strengthen the Commission’s capacity to monitor the dairy market and help the sector adapt to the new environment once the dairy quota system which has been in place for 30 years is abolished on 31 March 2015.
The Commissioner first initiated the idea for such an observatory at the Milk Conference in September 2013 which featured a number of CEJA young farmers. The conference brought together all stakeholders in the dairy supply chain – from dairy farmers to milk processors and retailers – to discuss the post-quota future of the sector.
MF: How important is the dairy sector in the EU?
MB: Milk is produced in every single EU Member State and, as a single product sector, it is valued at approximately 15% of all EU agricultural output. The EU is a major player in the world dairy market as the leading exporter of many dairy products, in particular, cheeses. For some Member States, it forms a crucial part of the agricultural economy. Total EU milk production was estimated at around 152 million tonnes in 2011 but this is expected to grow as global demand escalates and EU quotas are phased out. It is no secret that dairy quotas can be a contentious issue in Europe and so the only widely supported concrete suggestion of the Dairy Conference was that of the establishment of the Milk Market Observatory.
Massey Ferguson speaks to Matteo Bartolini, President of the European Council of Young Farmers (CEJA), about the links between nutrition, eating habits and the food chain.
MF: Is EU food legislation to blame for higher food prices?
MB: All of us, as European consumers want high-quality and safe food. The EU plays a vital role in that. The European Commission oversees the necessary level of law harmonization thereby avoiding distortion of competition among Member States. A set of common rules for all 28 Member States is less burdensome and expensive than 28 entirely different sets of rules and regulations.
MF: Would you agree that consumers consider the cost of food – as opposed to its quality and dietary issues – as the determining factor when shopping for food? What can we do to change people’s eating habits?
MB: Cheaper food does not always translate into unhealthy food, and we also need to keep in mind that eating habits often depend on different cultures across the Union. EU citizens must be aware of the fact that meeting the most rigorous requirements – like EU farmers do – can, indeed, contribute to higher prices since the production cost for European farmers increases in direct proportion. Europeans are demanding good quality food – in other words, they want to know what they eat and how their food was produced.
MF: What is your opinion as regards the claim that small farms are less sustainable than their bigger counterparts?
MB: Although this can sometimes be the case, it does not mean that it is the rule. Small farms can be modern and sustainable too. The EU supports small farms by providing funds for modernization and investments in order to ensure that they not polluters and that they are also economically viable. Our view on the issue is that irrespective of their size, both big and small farms should aim to produce sustainably. The reality nowadays is that increasingly scarce natural resources do not leave farmers with much of a choice. European agriculture does not consist of only small farms or only big farms. It is essential to have a mix of the two as this is part of the culture of European farming.
MF: Do you believe that European farmers’ bargaining power has decreased over the years? What do you think are the reasons behind this and what can they do to gain more control?
MB: European farmers exercise rather little control over the final cost of their products. Past practices have fallen short of providing producers with decent prices at farm gate level, with farmers often getting a fraction of what the consumer pays. However, young farmers in particular are attempting to shorten this chain and find innovative solutions to the lack of bargaining power. Young farmers employ methods such as direct selling in order to improve the functioning of the food chain, while, at the same time, bringing consumers closer to producers and giving them more understanding of where and how their food was produced.