From an international trade perspective, the volatility of milk prices has been the predominant issue in 2009. Dairy processors have been confronted with unexpected, yet extreme price volatility. At EDA, we’ve spent a considerable amount of time looking at how the industry could cope with these extreme price fluctuations.
In our view, this extreme volatility of prices is negative for farmers and processors and the industry should be protected from these extreme price fluctuations. Crucial in our work on price volatility this year was commissioning the University of Cork to prepare a report on the development of the milk market. At the core of this report, presented at our General Assembly Meeting in Bratislava, is the industry’s need for public assistance in coping with extreme price volatility to prevent it from being damaged.
The EU Commission should think about intervention stocks strategically and use them to counterbalance market fluctuation.
Because of the pricing issues, the EU Commission set up a High Level Work Group to examine the situation and come up with solutions. This group will look at contractual relations between milk producers and the dairy industry to define ways of improving competitiveness of farmers. The group will also check whether existing market management instruments are sufficient and assess how R&D could add to the competitiveness of the dairy industry as a whole.
As a key stakeholder and active participant, the EDA provides this group with relevant input on facts and figures on developments in the industry and on the market, as well as with the EDA position on the relevant items.
On the subject of nutrition, the EDA has been busy with the regulation proposals on claims and labelling. For the EDA, it must be the Commission’s continuous intention to strive at finding the best possible solution for all parties concerned when developing food policies. With regards to dairy products in particular, this means providing the necessary regulation in order to secure consumer health. Claims and labelling were our focus in 2009, but will certainly continue to deserve our main attention in 2010.
One of the nutrition challenges we particularly paid attention to in 2009 was the issue of saturated fat intake. In order to make EU policy makers aware of the recent scientific findings of milk fat on health effects and their implications for policy making, we organised in collaboration with the Danish Dairy Board (DDB) the International Conference on Saturated Fat in Copenhagen at the end of September.
The EDA and the DDB gathered internationally renowned scientists to present the latest scientific findings on the health impact of milk fat intake. Based on the scientific findings presented and the observations made, the conclusion of the conference was that policy options for saturated fat need to be reconsidered and that there was no conclusive evidence to make broad dietary recommendations on restricting saturated fat intake to as low as possible or even ‘zero’.
Last but not least, we can state that 2009 was important for the dairy sector and its relationship to sustainability and climate change. Not only did the EDA raise the awareness on the EU dairy industry’s views on this important issue by organising proactive communications, it also co-signed the Global Declaration on Climate Change as representative body of the EU dairy industry.
This declaration stipulates that the dairy supply chain is committed to providing consumers with the nutritious dairy products they want, in a way that’s economically viable, environmentally sound and socially responsible. This includes reducing emissions of greenhouse gases such as methane, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide.
Joop Kleibeuker is secretary general for the European Dairy Association, the body representing the interests of the EU dairy processing industry.
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