SWITZERLAND – The Federal Office for Agriculture has distributed a questionnaire to assess how best to handle open border dairy trading with the EU.
But, market commentators say that the Swiss market is too fragile for such a consideration.
External competition represents a new ‘threat’ to a dairy industry struggling to cope with seasonal production and farm gate prices well adrift of costings, according to the European Milk Board.
Despite an increase in milk prices in June, farmers are concerned over the prices offered by dairies which remain almost ten cents adrift of the industry reference price of 57.5 cents.
Cheese production is in an annual trough. This is when dairies stop collecting for cheese manufacture through the summer and many farmers turn production to EMMI, Switzerland's biggest processor.
This cycle will be hard to break and installing a new scenario may prove costly, according to Werner Locker of processor BIG-M.
“The consequences of tougher competition in milk production have long ceased to be restricted to the sector itself. They extend to society as a whole,” said Mr Locker.
“BIG-M has legitimate doubts that the agreements on the free trading of milk with the EU are being approached seriously.
“It reeks of (expensive) fobbing off. As can be seen already from the questionnaire, in the best-case scenario the result will be a demand for a lot of money for untold accompanying measures. Measures that will bring little but cost a lot.”
While the debate is set to rage on, long term perspective is imporant to policy makers.
Much consideration is being given in the survey to what opening up Swiss dairy markets will do for farming families, consumer food safety, ecology and tourism.
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