End of milk quota brings price volatility concerns

System was originally introduced when EU production far exceeded demand

The EU milk quota regime came to a

close on March 31st, marking the end of an era for many Irish farmers.

The system was originally introduced in 1984 to deal with the issue of surpluses, at a time when EU production far exceeded demand. Reforms of the EU’s Common Agriculture Policy in the intervening years, however, have seen the sector become more market focused.

At the same time, alternative support measures have been introduced to assist producers in more vulnerable areas where the costs of production are higher. While the end of the regime is expected to give Irish producers more flexibility to respond to growing demand, there are concerns around resulting price volatility.


In a much anticipated judgment in the area of EU competition law, on March 19th, 2015, the EU Court of Justice handed down its judgment in Dole v. Commission (Case C-286/13P).

In 2008, the European Commission imposed a fine of €60.3 million on Dole and another banana importer, Weichhert, for participating in a cartel. Chiquita escaped fines because it had blown the whistle on the cartel and secured immunity under the commission's leniency regime.

Dole appealed, but the EU General Court agreed with the commission, finding Dole had taken part in an unlawful concerted practice by exchanging pre-pricing information, relating to the weekly quotation prices for bananas, with competing banana importers.

The finding was considered novel, because the importers weren’t exchanging information on actual prices. Rather, their discussions were around the setting of quotation prices and disclosing price trends. Dole appealed the judgment and in dismissing the case, the Court of Justice has now put beyond doubt that this type of information exchange can amount to a breach of competition law.

Public eye

Water is very much in the public eye at the moment and as such it is interesting to see that the commission has announced the

United Kingdom

is to be referred to the Court of Justice over its failure to ensure that urban waste water is adequately treated in 17 areas.

Under the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive, all EU member states are required to ensure that towns, cities and other settlements properly collect and treat their urban waste water.

The infringements range from no treatment plant at all to failure by existing plants to meet the more stringent standards required for areas where waste water discharges into sensitive areas such as freshwaters and estuaries. The case also concerns excessive spills from storm water overflows in collecting systems in two agglomerations; the deadline for having compliant collecting systems in place was 2000. While steps are being taken by the UK to implement innovative and environmentally positive sustainable urban drainage solutions, it appears this is not sufficient to satisfy the commission, as compliance is not foreseen before 2020.

In response to the recent airline tragedy involving Germanwings Flight 9525, the European Air Safety Agency has issued a recommendation for airlines to observe the "four-eye-rule" in the cockpit. This requires that when the captain or first officer leaves the cockpit, a member of the crew should be present in the cockpit with the remaining pilot. Maureen O'Neill and Jenny Mellerick are members of the Irish Society for European Law