Farmers’ Union of Wales president Gareth Vaughan today called for a national debate on the impact abolishing milk quotas will have on the Welsh dairy sector.

Last November the 27 EU agriculture ministers agreed to lift quotas by one per cent per year before scrapping them altogether in 2014-2015.

Mr Vaughan has written to Assembly rural affairs minister Elin Jones informing her the issue has attracted growing attention on the Continent during recent months, and prompted significant debate at last week's meeting of the EU Council of Ministers.

"There is growing concern amongst many farmers in Wales, and in other parts of the EU, that the full implications of the abandonment of the quota regime have not been properly recognised by the European Commission and others," Mr Vaughan wrote.

"Many believe that such a change would have a destabilising effect on an industry that is already suffering as a result of market volatility, and would have a particularly adverse impact for family farms."

Mr Vaughan told Ms Jones the FUW recognises the restrictions the current regime places on the industry’s ability to react to market demands and believes a more flexible approach to such challenges is needed, rather than the wholesale liberalisation of the current regime.

These concerns were discussed at a meeting last April between the FUW and EU Agriculture Commissioner Fischer Boel and, while the Commissioner was "resolute in her belief that the quota regime should be abolished" by 2015, she also made it clear the matter would be revisited in 2010.

"Given this and the recent volatility of milk prices, there is a real need for the Welsh Assembly Government to engage in further discussions on the impact that abolishing the quota regime will have for the Welsh dairy sector.

"I believe this should happen as soon as possible in order to inform next year's review," Mr Vaughan added.

"It seems perverse that, while the global economy is reeling as a result of under-regulation of the financial sector, and the G20 are proposing far stricter controls, the Commission seems hell-bent on deregulating the milk regime.

"We do not want to find ourselves in a similar situation to the one we now face with regards to sheep EID, with Member States only realising the serious repercussions of what they have agreed to when it is all but too late."