Dáil Éireann - Volume 580 - 18 February, 2004

Written Answers. - Milk Quota.

  159. Mr. O'Shea asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food his views on the milk quota; if he has satisfied himself that the future milk quota will not affect farmers disproportionately; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4929/04]

  Mr. Walsh: The milk quota system has, over the years since its introduction, been largely beneficial to the industry in Ireland and the EU. It has reduced the huge surpluses which overhung the market, has restored stability and helped to keep prices at a reasonable level in the sector over the years. On that basis, its extension to 2014-15 in the mid-term reform agreement was a positive outcome and was welcomed by the industry generally. It is clear from studies undertaken that the abolition of the regime would have resulted in a major reduction in milk prices to a level where the majority of producers would have found it impossible to operate profitably.

The EU quota system allows considerable flexibility to member states as to the manner in which it is applied at national level. Ireland has operated the system in such a way as to favour smaller committed producers and to use whatever flexibility is available to ensure such producers can increase their scale and position themselves to better withstand competitive pressures. It is my intention to continue to apply the quota system in an equitable way and in the best interests of the Irish dairy sector as a whole.