TALLINN – Participants in a meeting at the Riigikogu on Tuesday, which brought together members of the parliamentary rural affairs committee and representatives of the dairy sector, found that in order for the dairy sector to be preserved and develop, the price of milk must rise in Estonia.
The chairman of the rural affairs committee, Tarmo Tamm, said in a press release that Estonian milk producers are successful on the European and the global scale, which demonstrates the sector's capability and potential.
"We should not let go of these opportunities and we must remain competitive on the market also in the future," Tamm said. He said that while dairy products are a good category of exports, it cannot be accepted that a quarter of the total amount of milk produced in Estonia is shipped to other countries.
"We must be able to add value to raw milk ourselves and keep money in Estonia. Estonian industry does have the readiness to process more milk," he said.
Tamm said that it also cannot be accepted that the price of milk in stores is significantly lower than the cost price, as such price does not enable processing activities to be sustainable.
"The question arises, why should one be selling milk at a cheaper price than water and why do we stand below our neighbors when it comes to the price of milk," the Center Party MP said.
The chairman of the standing committee said that the purpose of the meeting was to start a discussion, as a result of which a situation could be reached where both the producers of milk and industries get a fair price for the product and a respectable reward for their work.
"It is a goal for all of us that the dairy herd of Estonia would not decrease. There are over 80,000 cows in Estonia at present and, as we heard today, many a holding is mulling discontinuing dairy farming, whereas Estonia has potential for a much bigger dairy herd," Tamm said.
He added that the committee will definitely revisit the topic.
Member of the committee Ivari Padar said that in order to improve the situation, one definitely needs to review the subsidies for dairy farmers and that the price of milk must increase, while remaining acceptable for the consumer, for the sector to be preserved and to develop.
"For the Estonian dairy sector to be preserved, it is necessary for the price of milk to be not lower than in neighboring countries. That would also contribute to it that export and the domestic market are in balance and we add value to our raw milk in Estonia, not abroad," Padar said.
It was highlighted at the meeting that the consumer must not be left the impression that milk has to be cheap as such. It was observed that the price of milk and cheese have been on the same level almost for 15 years and that some kind of breakthrough is needed. The proposal was upheld that stores should not sell milk below production price unless they have received permission to do so from the supplier.
Also highlighted was the need to increase domestic consumption and the need to pursue an approach whereby export and the domestic market must be in balance. It was stressed on repeated occasions that national subsidies should be at least equal with those offered by neighboring countries.
The meeting was attended by the head of the dairy chapter of the Estonian Chamber of Agriculture and Commerce, Pillerin Puskar, deputy chairs of the supervisory board of the Estonian Chamber of Agriculture and Commerce Jaanus Murakas and Tanel-Taavi Bulitko, and member of the supervisory board Margus Muld, board member of the Estonian Chamber of Agriculture and Commerce Meeli Lindsaar, Selver purchases director Katrin Riisalu, and secretary general of the Ministry of Rural Affairs Tiina Saron.