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State agency not impartial awarding investment, say dairy producers

Milk packaging line, Laeva dairy, Tartu County.
Milk packaging line, Laeva dairy, Tartu County. Source: (Postimees/Scanpix)

Two contenders have applied for investment in the millions of euros by the Agricultural Registers and Information Board (ARIB) to be granted to large dairy producers. E-Piim made the race; competitor EstMilk are talking about a conflict of interest.

The dairy producers organized in MilkEst AS have decided to contest the recommendation of an assessment committee at the Agricultural Registers and Information Board to support dairy producer E-Piim and its partners with €15 million.

EstMilk AS was founded in January this year by several Estonian producers. Their plan is to build a new plant in Central Estonia that will employ the latest in production technology, a project for which investment contributions by ARIB would be very welcome.

EstMilk as well as other producers handed in applications in mid-February, after which an assessment committee at ARIB lead by businessman Indrek Neivelt (Hansapank, Pocopay) then worked on a recommendation who the board should support.

The decision was made in favor of producer E-Piim, which EstMilk disagrees with. “In our opinion, the committee’s decision was made too soon and without attention to the details that are the most important aspect in realizing a new dairy production plant,” Märt Riisenberg of EPIKO, one of the stakeholders in EstMilk, said.

In a letter to ARIB of June 14, EPIKO along with fellow EstMilk stakeholders Jõgevamaa Põllumajandustootjate Liit, Saaremaa Piimaühistu, and Tartumaa Piimatootjate Ühistu expressed their disappointment with the committee’s decision of May 5. The committee had suggested that an investment in the amount of €15 million be granted to E-Piim Tootmine AS.

The letter was also sent to Minister of Rural Affairs Tarmo Tamm (Center). It lists a number of shortcomings of the committee’s work, as well as the way it explained its decision.

“The impression remained that with the little time they were given to familiarize with the business plans, the members of the committee didn’t manage to look at the details of [EstMilk’s] application, and an in-depth discussion of the subject did not take place,” the letter read. EstMilk’s founders also added that as a result, the committee’s work had been superficial only.

Another point they made in the letter is that there is a conflict of interest involved: three members of the committee, namely the University of Life Science’s representatives Annemari Polikarpus and Ants-Hannes Viira as well as the University of Tartu’s representative, Urmas Varblane are connected to E-Piim Tootmine AS through professional cooperation.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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