Milk and cheese products are more than twice as expensive in the rest of the 27 European countries than in Eastern Europe, according to a Eurostat report.
The report suggests that despite most countries adopting a common currency, a wide variation between countries still exists, and the EU has a long way to go before prices stabilise. In 2006, milk and cheese prices varied up to 72 per cent depending on the country, the report states. According to Eurostat statistics, the most expensive country for milk and cheese is Cyprus, where these products cost 39 per cent more than the EU27 average, closely followed by Greece, where they cost 38 per cent more. The least expensive countries for milk and cheese are all in Eastern Europe, the report suggests. The cheapest pint of milk can be found in Poland, which is 33 per cent cheaper than the average, whereas dairy products in Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia are all 25 per cent cheaper. Prices also vary widely between the EU27 countries and Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, which belong to the European Economic Area (EEA), and so trade freely with the rest of the EU. Despite agreements, dairy products in Norway for example are 60 per cent higher than the EU27 average, and 93 per cent higher than prices in Poland. All the countries in Europe are likely to experience a rise in prices however, as the EU strives to meet the growing challenges over preserving supply and an increase in demand. Joop Kleibeuker, the head of the European Dairy Association (EDA), told DairyReporter.com in an interview last week that prices on the international dairy market are at a "historically high level." Last week prices reached well above US$400 (€298)/100kg mark, with cheese prices being only slightly less. The EU last week announced it had fully revoked subsidies on all exported dairy products for the first time in 40 years due to these rising prices. Greece is one country that has expressed concern over their dairy industry, particularly in terms of milk production, which could account for the high prices the country is experiencing. Many Greek companies are having to reorganise operations in a move to remain profitable. For example, Greek investment firm Marfin is today expected to complete the purchase of a one-third stake in the dairy and food group Vivartia, giving the company a better position to compete globally with its rivals
The Eurostat survey, carried out last month, compared the cost of food, beverages and tobacco in 37 participating countries in 2006.