Euro Info

European milk board

Butter is expensive and milk powder is cheap. On this basis, dairies pay low prices that have remained practically unchanged. The price difference between protein and fat is abnormally high and  the large EU intervention stock is immediately blamed for the low powder price. Is this correct? The EU has hardly sold any of its large stocks and the market price is currently so low that SMP is being sold to stocks again. But at some point, the price of SMP will of course rise again and the intervention stock will then be a way to curb the rise of milk prices. Therefore, the Commission has to vouch for its statement: ” … selling at any cost has never been an option for the Commission. Instead, maintaining market balance and price recovery remain its main objectives.”

The only hope for dairy farmers to cling to is that the EU stock has become so old that nobody wants to buy it anymore. The stock has no official expiration date, but buyers will of course prefer fresh goods rather than powder which may be one, one and a half or two years old.

In Denmark, we have three analysts trying to predict milk prices and in most cases, they actually do it very well based on different algorithms. On the other hand, neither of them has been able to explain why the demand for milk fat has increased so much compared to the demand for milk protein.

The price difference between butter and protein is more than 2,200 USD per ton, which has never happened before. Somehow demand has changed, which can be a challenge; but with around 350,000 tons of powder in stock in the EU, the prospects for market equality are almost non-existent. Therefore, the Commission has to come up with a solution to get rid of the stock without affecting market prices. Otherwise, all European dairy farmers will be kept in unacceptable uncertainty forever.

Kjartan Poulsen, EMB board member and president of LDM Denmark

EMB milk price comparison

© wikimedia

In the previous two months of February and March 2017, most dairies included in the EMB milk price comparison paid milk producers a base price between 30 and 33 cents for one kilogram milk with 4.0% fat and 3.4% protein. However, the farm-gate price has decreased – even if marginally – in almost all dairies included in the comparison between February and March.


This has also been the case with the price for organic milk. The highest farm-gate price was recorded in Italy at 36.67 cents, whereas the lowest at over 8.87 cents below the same was paid, like in previous months, in Austria.

In the period of the EU milk volume reduction programme from October to January 2017, the farm-gate price increased most significantly in the dairies that paid the lowest prices to producers during the milk crisis. The greatest increase was seen at one of the German dairies included in the comparison, where the farm-gate price in September had fallen to less than 21 cents per kilogram and is still oscillating at just 30 cents (+44%) since January.


Phosphate reduction in the Netherlands

© wikimedia

The Netherlands have to reduce phosphate production in 2017 to a level that will allow the country to keep its derogation. This article outlines the technical details of the scheme for dairy farms, without further commenting on it.

The measures for phosphate reduction in 2017 consist of three parts:

  • Phosphate Reduction Regulation 2017
  • Use of feed in the dairy sector
  • Subsidy regulation for farms ceasing dairy production

Regulation for the 2017 phosphate reduction scheme

Since 1 March, dairy farms producing milk for consumption or processing have had to lower their phosphate production step by step. They must reduce their dairy herd to the size it had on 2 July 2015, minus 4%. Grassland-based farms are exempted from this additional 4% reduction.

Phased reduction

A target is set for each dairy farm. It corresponds to the number of dairy cows (converted to livestock units) that were registered on 1 October 2016 in the identification and registration system (I&R). This figure is then reduced by a specific percentage. The percentage depends on the phase.

Reduction targets are imposed based on two-months periods.

  • Farms that fail to meet their target have to pay a fine.
  • Farms that meet the target of the phase but have not reduced their herd to the level they had on 2 July 2015 minus 4% pay a lower fine.


Farms that fail to meet their target and do not comply with the phased reduction have to pay a fine. This amounts to 240 euros per month and per livestock unit above the reference number.

Solidarity levy

Dairy farms that reduce their herd by the number of cows imposed for a certain phase but fail to meet the reference number have to pay a solidarity levy charged on all livestock units still to be reduced.


Dairy farms that have less livestock units than their reference in a specific month get a bonus.

Feed for the dairy sector

In order to reduce the phosphate level in manure, the phosphate content in mixed feed has to be lowered. This measure will be fully implemented by the feed industry.

Subsidy regulation for terminating dairy farming

Dairy farmers who cease milk production in 2017 can be eligible for the ‘subsidy regulation for dairy farms’. The first round was opened on 20 February and closed on the first day of the measure as the target had already been exceeded. The premium paid per livestock unit is 1,200 euros. This measure is intended to lower phosphate production by 2.5 million kilos.

This scheme has of course caused a lot of emotions and discussions and many farmers are caught between different regulations. Numerous lawsuits are being prepared.

Sieta van Keimpema, DDB Netherlands