Estonian milk producers suspect Lithuanians of favoring own producers ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Dairy cows.
Dairy cows. Source: Olev Kenk/ERR

Raw milk from Estonia and Latvia has gotten stuck on the Lithuanian border. Estonian milk producers are claiming that Lithuania is causing these lines at the border in order to defend its domestic market.

The line at the Latvian-Lithuanian border can be seen on Google. Lithuania is taking the temperatures of drivers, including drivers of milk trucks from Estonia. Estonian milk producers, however, suspect that the line, which has stretched at times to several kilometers in length, has been artificially induced to protect Lithuania's domestic market from Estonian and Latvian milk.

"While 500 tons of raw milk from Estonia reaches the Lithuanian market each day, they themselves are transporting a few hundred (tons) of their own milk to Poland, the quality of which is significantly poorer," explained Raul Soodla, a board member at the Jõgeva County Agricultural Producers' Association (JPTL). "This milk, in turn, has flowed back into the Lithuanian market."

Estonian and Latvian raw milk producers, however, depend on the Lithuanian dairy industry. If hundreds of tons of raw milk do not make it across the border, no opportunities exist here to process such a large amount into cheese or powder.

"Nearly one third of our daily milk production goes to the Lithuanian dairy industry for processing," said Roomet Sõrmus, chairman of the board of the Estonian Chamber of Agriculture and Commerce (EPKK). "It is of vital importance to us that trade continues smoothly at the border."

Minister of Rural Affairs Arvo Aller consulted with his Lithuanian colleague, who confirmed that Lithuania's dairy industry is functioning and that milk deliveries from Estonia and Latvia are needed. No distinct treatment is being given to Latvia or Estonia at the border; regular checks are taking place.

"This may cause discomfort at the moment," Aller said. "But I nonetheless don't believe that this has intentionally been taken up by them in order to defend their own internal market. They are fully aware of the fact that Estonian milk is of high quality and their plants need Estonian milk."

Estonian raw milk producers' plan for a worst-case scenario involves allowing milk powder and cheese to be produced in Lithuania before importing it back to Estonia and attempting to market it itself.

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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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