Dutch veal gains access to China
After 17 years of negotiations, the Chinese market is open to Dutch veal.

Ekro, the subsidiary of the VanDrie Group, is the first European veal slaughterhouse to receive approval to export veal products to China. This signifies a breakthrough in the 17-year negotiation process concerning the export of Dutch veal to China.

Initially, only boneless veal will be allowed to cross the border.

The Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and the Commerce Minister Zhong Shan visited the Netherlands this week. The Chinese government had authorised the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) to perform the final required inspection at one veal producing company.

First order

Ekro is shipping the first veal order to China this week. Henny Swinkels, director of corporate affairs at Ekro, says the Netherlands has a good reputation in the field of nutrition in China.

“With our quality system Safety Guard, we provide unique guarantees for the Dutch veal products that we deliver, such as quality, tracking and tracing and food safety. Chinese consumers find these elements very important. It is now up to us to familiarise the market with the product,” Swinkels said.

He commended the Dutch embassy and its agricultural attaches in China, the NVWA and the chief veterinary officer on achieving the breakthrough.

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Court of Auditors report critical of direct payments to farmers
The European Court of Auditors has dismissed Commissioner Hogan's proposals as being more of the same.

As the Irish Farmers Journal went to print on Wednesday, news was breaking in Brussels that the European Court of Auditors (ECA) had published a report that was critical of the CAP proposals that would cover the period 2020 until 2027.

In brief, their main grievance is that the proposals launched by the Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan a year ago were too like the present CAP and weren’t strong enough on environmental issues and measurement of delivery of these was also not considered to be robust enough by the ECA.

Another area that will be of particular concern to farmers is that they don’t consider direct payments as “the most efficient way of supporting viable income”.

Worrying for farmers

This will send a shiver down the spine of Irish farmers and their colleagues across the EU27.

The UK will, over this period, formulate their own agriculture policy.

On this, Conservative MP and chair of the DEFRA committee in Westminster Neil Parish warned that a future UK agriculture policy would “all go into greening” without a focus on agriculture and food production.

If the ECA report were to become policy, it is clear that direct payments, such a critical part of farm incomes, would be dispensed with and no doubt directed towards environmental supports.

Process waiting on budget

These proposals from the ECA are the first truly critical assessment of Hogan’s proposals for CAP post-2020, apart from the NGO circuit, which would be expected.

While the ECA is in a position to comment, ultimately CAP 2020 will be shaped by the trilogy of Commission, parliament and heads of state.

On this issue, it was more encouraging for farmers that the parliament's agriculture committee this week was in favour of actually increasing the CAP budget by 18% to offset its decline in real value.

While that is welcome, of course parliament does not have money-raising powers, so, ultimately, it doesn’t have the accountability for expenditure.

Hogan pushback expected

While the ECA report will put the Commission on the defensive, they still have plenty to push back against the report with.

They will refer to the extensive consultation process that was undertaken prior to Hogan tabling his communication of what he expected the CAP after 2020 to look like.

His big challenges from a farmer and wider user perspective was to achieve simplification.

This wasn’t referenced by the ECA and by inviting member states to bring forward their own proposals within an EU framework and for EU approval was seen as an attempt to allow local farming conditions across the length and breadth of the EU be reflected.

On the issue of direct payments, there was widespread support in the consultation for funding farmers and he will point to having a basic qualifying environmental standard to access direct payments, plus separating the greening element to a separate application, as evidence that the environment is receiving enhanced priority in the next CAP.

This is really the opening salvo in a debate that will run to the conclusion of CAP discussions sometime next year.

For the environmental lobby, nothing will be sufficient unless it is exclusively an environmental payment, as is being mooted in the UK post-Brexit.

Over 30,000t of SMP sold from intervention
The volume sold and the price is higher in the latest skimmed milk powder (SMP) tender.

Some 30,067t of skimmed milk powder (SMP) has been sold from European intervention stocks for €1,251/t in the latest tender this week.

The price has risen from €1,231 and is an increase on the 20,033t sold in the last tender at the end of October.

For this tender, no maximum buying-in price was fixed and no stock was bought in.

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Dairy markets: dairy prices improve but little product is trading

MEPs back increase to CAP budget
The Multi-Annual Financial Framework (MFF) proposed in May this year included a cut to the CAP budget of 5%.

The European Parliament budget committee has backed an increase to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) budget.

This is part of its position on the overall EU Budget for 2021 to 2027.

If implemented the CAP budget would rise from the €336bn proposed by the Commission to €408bn, but would require the contribution from member states to rise from 1.08% of Gross National Income (GNI) to 1.27%.

IFA reaction

“It is highly significant that the parliament has supported the CAP budget being maintained in real terms. This is the first clear acknowledgement at EU level that CAP payments have been eroded by inflation,” IFA president Joe Healy said.

The Multi-Annual Financial Framework (MFF) proposed in May this year included a cut to the CAP budget of 5%.

However, the IFA says that the real impact of this would be a cut of 15%, based on the EU proxy inflation rate.

“This would have a devastating effect on the low-income farming sectors who are very dependent on CAP payments.

“Average farm incomes are 40% of average earnings in other sectors across the EU.

“On cattle rearing and sheep farms, direct payments account for up to 115% of average farm income,” Healy said.