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Lifting of milk production quota in EU sparks debate

VIENNA/WARSAW, March 31 (Xinhua) -- The lifting of the European Union quotas on milk production, to become effective on April 1, has sparked a debate in EU member states regarding its consequences.

The Farmer's Union in Austria called the removal of the upper ceiling on production an "opportunity," while farmers' association IG-Milch has protested against the move in Vienna on Tuesday.

The EU will lift the milk quotas in order to raise the competitiveness of European dairy producers. According to experts, the move will lead to increased milk production and price fall.

Many small-scale producers in Europe have expressed their concerns, especially after the EU dairy market was affected by Russian embargo.

Dozens of the IG-Milch members demonstrated in front of parliamentary buildings, headquarters of the Ministry of Agriculture and the House of the EU in Vienna. Several farmers from the states of Upper and Lower Austria drove the tractors to show their disapproval.

"The dream of growth-oriented companies -- that the end of the quota will bring such growth -- will turn into a boomerang," IG-Milch head Ewald Gruenzweil said, according to a report from the Austria Press Agency.

Farmer's Union Director Johannes Abentung said the end of the quota system is now "an economic reality," something each Austrian dairy farmer has the opportunity to plan for as an individual.

Farmers have been preparing for the lifting of the quota for many years, investing significantly in the quality of their products, and tomorrow will essentially be just another day, Chamber of Agriculture President Hermann Schultes said in a press release.

Austrian Minister of Agriculture Andrae Rupprechter said Tuesday he sees the lifting of the quotas as "timely", because milk and cheese exports to China can now be boosted.

For Polish Minister of Agriculture Marek Sawicki, the abolition of European Union milk quotas means a reconstruction in the dairy sector in his country.

He added that small dairy producers will have to adjust their offer to local consumers to avoid being eliminated from the market.

Poland has 144,000 milk producing homesteads, which employs more than 500,000 people. In 2014, production limit for Poland was more than 10 billion kilograms.

The milk quota policy was established in 1984 to solve the problem of milk overproduction and stabilize the market.

Poland has already exceeded production limits three times, including last year, when 56,000 farmers were fined. This year's fine in the country might reach 700 million zloty (184.71 million U.S. dollars).

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