24 Jan 2009

Dairy export subsidies back

2:06 pm on 24 January 2009

The European Union has reintroduced export subsidies for dairy produce, arguing that the economic downturn has put many European farms at risk.

The maximum refund for butter has been set at 500 euros ($US650) per tonne and the maximum for skimmed milk powder is 200 euros per tonne.

The last time such refunds were given to dairy farmers was in June 2007.

The European Commission insists that the subsidies comply with rules set by the World Trade Organization.

Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel said last week that world market prices are now below EU intervention and market prices, and European exporters were no longer able to compete.

So far, the maximum export refunds apply to 2,299 tonnes of butter and 5,612 tonnes of skimmed milk powder.

A statement said:"The measure will only apply for as long as market conditions so dictate."

The BBC reports additional support for dairy farmers comes in the form of EU intervention - European Commission purchases of surplus produce at a guaranteed price.

The next round of such intervention will be from 1 March to 31 August, and the annual limit is 30,000 tonnes of butter and 109,000 tonnes of skimmed milk powder.

The EU still plans to phase out milk quotas by 2015 and to limit market intervention, with a view to scrapping it in the long term.