Rally calls for sustainable European production

By Jim Cornall contact

- Last updated on GMT

Representatives from African and European organizations called for a balanced agricultural and trade policy in the EU to guarantee fair conditions for dairy farmers in Africa and Europe.
Representatives from African and European organizations called for a balanced agricultural and trade policy in the EU to guarantee fair conditions for dairy farmers in Africa and Europe.

Related tags: Burkina faso, Dairy, Milk, Oxfam

At a rally close to the EU Council building earlier this week, dairy farmers from Burkina Faso, Mali, and three other West African countries joined European dairy farmers to call for sustainable production in Europe and Africa to ensure the survival of important farming structures.

According to the European Milk Board (EMB), this is against the backdrop of European overproduction and the current EU export orientation, which the organization says are having a disastrous effect on the local dairy sector in West Africa.

‘Too much milk’

Christian Dovonou, country director of Veterinarians Without Borders in Burkina Faso, said, "Many hundreds of thousands of families earn a living through milk production and processing.

"These local structures are put in danger as cheap imports from the EU increase further. Since 2016, EU exports of fat-filled milk powder to West Africa have increased by 24%.

"This mix of skimmed milk powder and vegetable oils is 30% cheaper than whole milk powder on African markets and is thus sold at a level that hinders the development of local milk and is similar to dumping prices."

Thierry Kesteloot, from Belgian development organization Oxfam-Solidarité, said, "The EU produces a lot of milk. Too much. To date, this problem has not been addressed at the source through appropriate instruments. Instead, export promotion, especially of cheap products, is seen as the only solution.

"The victims end up being the people working in the dairy sector, especially women, who cannot compete with cheap exports from Europe.”

In a common declaration, representatives from different African and European organizations called for a balanced agricultural and trade policy in the European Union, to guarantee fair conditions for dairy farmers in Africa and Europe. In addition to representatives from Mali, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Mauritania and Niger, and European producers from the EMB, the rally was organized and conducted with development organizations Oxfam, SOS Faim and Veterinarians Without Borders.

The EMB said that while EU export subsidies no longer exist, dumping is still taking place because direct payments help EU farmers finance production, which makes exports cheaper; overproduction in the EU means prices paid by dairies to EU producers are below production costs, making cheap exports possible; and, the process of re-fattening milk with vegetable oils means milk products are made using cheap ingredients that are nothing like the natural product – making the final product cheaper as well.

Development of the local dairy sector

Milk powder is often imported in 25kg sacks and can take advantage of the low common external tariff (CET) of 5% agreed by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

François Graas of SOS Faim says imports should not be condemned en bloc as the demand for milk products cannot currently be fulfilled by local production alone.

"But there must be a balance and cheap imports cannot have the upper hand. It is also necessary to support local structures through development cooperation policy, because the local dairy sector has great potential for job creation and income generation," ​Graas said.

Erwin Schöpges, president of the EMB, said, "We cannot simply export the problem of European overproduction to Africa.  As a dairy farmer, I wish for cost-covering prices, so that I am no longer dependent on direct payments that act as indirect export subsidies for our products in third countries."

Schöpges said he is positive about the vote that took place in early April on the report regarding the review of the Common Market Regulation as part of the EU CAP reform. The Agriculture Committee of the European Parliament is in favor of voluntary volume reduction as an effective crisis instrument to address market disturbances, he believes.

Related topics: Dairy, Sustainability, Policy

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