Mid-November, the dairy group Entremont Alliance fixed milk prices at 262 euros per 1000 litres for the fourth quarter, sending a wave of relief through the Brittany dairy sector. This is 19€ more than the originally proposed price of 243 euros, which upset breeders, but still 10€ less than they initially claimed.
While there are tentative signs of price recovery on international markets for butter and milk, this new agreement gives dairy farmers positive perspectives, though modest, to face the current crisis they are going through. However, make no mistake, beside the fact that the agreed price remains insufficient in the opinion of Brittany dairy farmers, this agreement does not necessarily indicate the end of the crisis.
At the first fall in prices, the vicious cycle may well resume, plunging farmers into yet another critical situation. Remember that industrial groups defined themselves by their inflexibility early on during the crisis affecting the sector: in October 2008, they were the first to drop milk prices paid to producers by 15% and last 1st December, whilst industrials, cooperatives and milk producers reached an agreement on milk prices, some didn’t want to implement the agreement until January before giving in under pressure from producers. There is also every reason to believe that in the event of a market downturn, the agreement made with dairy producers would be reviewed.
It is therefore essential that structural regulatory measures accompany these contingency measures, for they alone can provide a lasting solution to the crisis in the dairy industry and agriculture in general. Now is the time to think - before recovering prices give the illusion of the end of the crisis and political decision makers demobilize.