Glass half empty for EU milk producers

With European Union (EU) dairy producers hit by low prices and climbing input costs, Copa-Cogeca, the main EU farmers’ advocacy group told EU farm ministers that additional action must be taken to help producers adapt to the new EU milk policy framework. The end of the EU quota system in April this year has some concerned that it will bring greater volatility to the sector. With supply projected to increase as producers aim to boost revenues after the quota system ends, a milk oversupply could mean lower prices for farmers. The Commission’s ‘soft landing’ approach has been carried out over the last six years where the quota was incrementally increased between 2008 and 2014. This program aimed to help farmers prepare and adjust for its total abolition this year. EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan, believes the ending of quotas is both a challenge and an opportunity for the EU. However farmers’ advocacy groups say the Commission has played down concerns about a slump in prices. Copa-Cogeca Secretary-General, Pekka Pesonen, stressed: 

Other tools for risk management are needed and could include encouraging the development of futures markets to take some volatility out of the market. Income/margins insurance could be investigated or better adapted in order to help farmers manage the multiple risks. 

Common herbicide potential cause of cancer, says WHO

A new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) published in the journal The Lancet Oncology, recently claimed the most common chemical used by Australian farmers ‘probably’ causes cancer. Glyphosate, invented by Monsanto in 1974 and sold under the Roundup brand, is one the most widely-used herbicides in the agricultural industry, as the patent is now in the public domain. The WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declared it is a ‘probable’ cause of cancer, citing studies of exposure to glyphosate in Canada, Sweden and the United States (US). However, Monsanto said the research agency didn’t establish any link between glyphosate and an increase in cancer, and that IARC researchers ‘disregarded dozens of scientific studies that showed glyphosate poses no human-health risk’. A statement made by Philip Miller, Vice President of Global Regulatory Affairs for Monsanto, expressed the company’s great scepticism about the findings; ‘We don’t know how IARC could reach a conclusion that is such a dramatic departure from the conclusion reached by all regulatory agencies around the globe.’ Australian Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce proposed to seek advice from the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) about the new report, and suggested that the IARC findings ‘would appear to be a re-identification of a small number of old research papers.’ Nevertheless, it is possible the incident will spark a review of the pesticides approval process in Australia.

California drought sways rice price

California recorded its warmest winter in 119 years, 4.4 degrees (Fahrenheit) above average, and is now preparing to enter into its fourth year of drought. A recent study released by the University of California Davis estimated the total state-wide economic cost of the ongoing drought is $2.2 billion. Of that, the direct cost to agriculture totals $1.5 billion and is likely to climb further with predictions of the drought continuing through 2015, regardless of El Niño conditions. It’s been particularly challenging for the state’s rice and medium-grain farmers. The US is Australia’s main competitor in medium-grain markets. SunRice CEO, Rob Gordon, indicated California’s drought could help drive up rice prices for Australian growers, anticipating returns to be over $300/tonne for 2015.

Beef slaughter ban in India

On March 2, the President of India approved the bill which bans the slaughter of cattle in Maharashtra, India’s second most populated state. Almost 20 years after it was first passed by state legislature, the law now bans the slaughter of cows, bulls, bullocks and calves. Other states are likely to follow suit, with Jharkhand and Haryana also tightening restrictions on beef trading. India’s current Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, heavily criticised the previous government for promoting beef exports. Interior Minister Rajnath Singh hinted in a recent speech to spiritual leaders that India will use all its ‘might’ to impose a national ban on cow slaughter. Indian beef exports earned US$4.4 billion in 2013–14, representing 20% of the global market.(1) India is also the world’s fifth largest beef consumer. Despite the multi-billion dollar beef industry, the Modi Government aims to clamp down on beef trade and says the sacred animal needs greater protection.

Footnote

1. Agricultural & Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (2015).

Images:  IRRI, Vijay Sonar

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