(dpa) - The European Union's agriculture ministers agreed Monday to raise the bloc's milk quotas by 2 per cent, in spite of objections from the bloc's biggest producer, Germany.
The increase was proposed in December by the European Commission as a means of countering rising prices in the face of growing demand for dairy products.
EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel said the higher quotas would also help European producers conquer new markets in Asia.
"If Europe's high-quality products do not show up at the very beginning," she said, "it will be very difficult to come back at a later stage."
The EU decision is based on a recent report showing that demand for milk has risen steadily between 2003 and 2007.
The report also suggests demand will rise further until 2014, as consumers around the world buy more and more cheese.
Germany, whose current annual quota totals nearly 29 million tonnes, opposed the decision on the grounds that price in Europe have already started to come down.
Germany was supported by Austria. But the abstention of heavyweight France meant it was unable to block it.
The 2-per-cent rise will come into effect on April 1 and should result in the production by EU farmers of an extra 2.84 million tonnes of milk per year.
The commission's long-term aim is to gradually increase milk quotas until they are due to be abolished, in the spring of 2015.