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Milk market of Ukraine: EU standards vs. peasant’s income

Author : Olena Holubeva

As part of EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, our country should bring the requirements for the quality of dairy raw materials in line with the EU Regulation No. 853/2004
14:06, 18 December 2017

Read the original text at 112.ua.

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A scandal erupted in the Ukrainian milk market. In connection with the expected (from the January 1, 2018) exception from the State Standards GOST of milk of the second grade, Ukrainian media began to massively report that milk processors will not be allowed to take milk of this class from the population. Since about 70% of the structure consist of the "peasant’s" milk, and for many rural residents, the milk is the only income item, they began talking about the imminent collapse. The number of cows will reduce, the villagers will be left without income, and the prices for dairy products, for the deficit will break all the records. 112.ua tried to figure out the situation and found out that in fact the introduction of the new State Standards GOST was postponed again, and the Ministry of Agrarian Policy prepared a document according to which dairy products from low-quality milk can be manufactured for at least five years.

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In Ukraine, the requirements for the quality of dairy raw materials are determined by the current State Standards GOST 3662-97. Milk is a fullcream cow's milk. According to this document, milk processing enterprises can produce products from three types of milk: the highest ("extra") class (with bacterial contamination of up to 300 thousand colony-forming units CFU per cm3), first grade (no more than 500 thousand CFU per cm3), and second grade (up to 3 million CFU per cm3). At the same time, the milk should be obtained from healthy cows, it should be cooled and filtered, and should nor not contain traces of antibiotics, veterinary drugs, detergent-disinfectants, formalin, preservatives, peroxides.

Enterprises must comply with GOST if they want to mark the produced dairy products with the mark "manufactured in accordance with GOST." If they produce products from milk that do not meet the requirements of GOST, they, in turn, must register the technical conditions (TC) and indicate this in the product labeling, explained Mykola Moroz, Director General of the Directorate for Food Safety and Quality.

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In this case, the process of compliance with the GOST requirements in Ukraine is not controlled by anyone. "Today, the responsibility for the conformity of food products to the marking is borne by the manufacturer alone. As for control issues, after the moratorium for verification was introduced, the sole responsibility fell on the manufacturer," said Vitaliy Bashynsky, head of the Public Council under the State Consumer Protection Service.

The situation at the milk collection points (raw materials), in his words, is not different. "Milk collection points today belong to the market operators (processors), cooperatives or private suppliers who resell milk to factories, and they control themselves. The state has dissociated itself from this problem by the overregulation of admission to inspections and moratoria," Bashynsky said.

State Procurement Service itself clarified that, despite the moratorium, inspections are still being conducted. However, milk processing enterprises and milk collection points, according to the current legislation, are checked no more often than once every two years.

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"We also need to warn the enterprise 10 days in advance about the intention to conduct an inspection. In 10 days the business entity has the opportunity to eliminate its shortcomings," Borys Kobal, director of the food safety and veterinary medicine department of the State Consumer Protection Service, complained.

According to him, the inspectors of the service can also conduct unscheduled inspections of enterprises in case of an individual's application with justified claims to the quality of products. However, for their conduct, the consent of the relevant ministries is necessary, which drags out the process.

Kobal expressed hope that the situation will improve after April 4, 2018, when the law "On State Control over Compliance with the Legislation on Food, Feed, Livestock by-Products, Animal Health and Welfare" would enter into force, according to which "state control measures will be implemented without a warning. In addition, unscheduled inspections are possible too.

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As part of the implementation of the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU, our country should bring the requirements for the quality of dairy raw materials in line with the EU Regulation No. 853/2004 (from April 29, 2004). According to this regulation, only high-grade milk (with bacterial insemination not more than 100 thousand CFU per cubic centimeter) can be allowed for processing at enterprises. So far, only about 10% of milk correspond to such a class comes in Ukraine, Mykola Moroz told 112.ua.

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As part of the fulfillment of the commitments, a new GOST 3662:2015 was developed, from which second-grade milk (with bacterial insemination up to 3 million CFUs per cubic centimeter) was excluded. Compliance with the requirements was also voluntary, but even taking into account this circumstance, the entry into force of the document was several times postponed. So, according to Moroz, it had to come into force from January 1, 2017, but then the date was changed to January 1, 2018.

High bacterial colonization of milk can have a negative impact on the health of people, especially children. Vitaliy Bashynsky said: "There are direct risks to human health, especially in connection with dairy products that undergoes low-temperature pasteurization." In addition, according to the head of the Public Council at the State Consumer Protection Service, the production of milk products containing antibiotics poses a threat to the development of antibiotic resistance, which is especially dangerous for children.

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"The requirements established for the level of milk contamination will be delayed for at least 5 years. The requirements of the decree will become mandatory from 2023. During the entire transitional period, the new standard 3662:2015(without milk of the second class) would be relevant, which is voluntary for compliance, and also within 5 years it will be possible to produce milk following the technical specifications," Moroz noted.

It is possible to obtain milk of extra class or the first class, which complies with the requirements of the European regulations, only with the use of milking machines, excluding hands contact, as well as with the help of instant cooling, experts say.

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It is possible to organize this process properly only on farms. At the same time, due to the lack of proper state support in Ukraine, as well as the conditions under which it would be beneficial for dairy farming, stagnation in the sector of organized dairy farms has been observed over the past 10 years.

Year after year, the livestock of the dairy herd decreases. According to the State Statistics Service, it has decreased from 2.6 million in 2010 to 2.1 million in 2016. At the same time, in agricultural enterprises, the livestock decreased from 589,1 thousand up to 484,6 thousand heads for 6 years, and in households for the same period - from 2.04 million to 1.6 million heads. And the officials have not figured out how to stop this process.

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At least 70% of all processed dairy raw materials in the country fall on milk purchased from the population. For peasants, this is one of the main sources of income. By abandoning this channel the authorities will inevitably cause overwhelming social discontent. In addition, the price of the milk itself is rapidly slipping up due to the shortage, which will affect the price tags in supermarkets.

In the State Consumer Protection Service, it was clarified that now 19 milk processing enterprises have permission to supply dairy products to Europe: they are allowed to import solid cheese, milk powder and butter.

"Market and border control of dairy products in the EU does not allow deceiving the European consumer," Bashynsky emphasized.

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Yet, there were some cases, when EU complied about Ukrainian products, and these products were withdrawn. In this regard, the work of exporting enterprises was temporarily suspended. If the requirements for the quality of milk in Ukraine were tightened, the risks of such situations would be minimized.

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