Letter: Europe's milk quotas leave Britain sour

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The Independent Online
Sir: When will any politician or political party speak out against the monstrous Common Agricultural Policy and start to do something to reform it fundamentally?

In these parts - indeed, in most of England - the one thing that soil and climate encourage is the growing of grass, which is the basis of milk and a whole range of dairy products. Yet if I enter any local food shop, I will find a selection of French (and probably German and Italian) cheeses, some English cheese, mainly imported butter and probably imported yoghurts. Other milk products, even if made in England, such as curd cheese, masquerade under such names as 'fromage frais' or 'creme fraiche'. Local butter is both a rarity and a luxury.

Why? It would be easy to blame the dairy products industry for lack of enterprise. However, the root of the problem and the reason why English cheese and butter is not seen in the shops of Bayeux or Rennes is the milk quota system. Under this, the UK is 88 per cent self-sufficient for milk, corresponding figures for other countries being:

Irish Republic 331

Netherlands 225

Denmark 222

France 107

Germany 102

The market for milk in the UK is about to be deregulated. The Milk Marketing Board will go. A deregulated market normally means unfettered supply and demand. What will, however, happen after 1 November is that milk prices will rise. The UK's leading cheese producer reckons on a 20 per cent hike. This must be good news for importers.

Meanwhile, farmers will continue to pour milk down the drain (literally) when they exceed their quotas and receive their grants for growing unsuitable crops (eg, sugar beet).

Is it surprising that those of us who believe with some passion in the integrity of Europe (for historical, cultural and commercial reasons) are appalled at the way in which the European Union is run?

Yours faithfully, HENRY BEST Ilminster, Somerset 14 October

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