Approximately 44,000 dairy farmers from across the EU have applied for support under the terms set out for the voluntary reduction scheme, according to the European Commission.

The producers in question committed to cut back milk production by nearly 852,000t in the last quarter of 2016.

The EU milk production reduction scheme, launched last summer and financed with €150 million, was one of the flagship measures implemented by the European Commission to tackle the milk crisis. Brussels has confirmed that the scheme has contributed to the rising trend in EU milk prices witnessed over the past few months.

"The European Union continues to strongly support dairy farmers in good times and bad," said EU Agriculture Commissioner, Phil Hogan. "When I took office in 2014, Europe was entering a profound and lasting dairy price crisis."

We saw the storm clouds coming. And we took decisive action at every stage of the crisis, exhausting every legislative tool at our disposal.

Hogan added: "The voluntary reduction [production] scheme is a measure which had never been done before, but which has been a clear success. There has been a slow but unmistakable price recovery, with the milk market witnessing a rising trend for a number of months."

 According to Brussels, EU average farm gate milk prices have increased by 31% since last summer, up to 33.7c/kg in February. The final figures received by member states for the first reduction period (October to December 2016), confirm that 43,968 milk producers reached a total production reduction of 851,700t of milk.

The money not used as part of the €150 million set aside for the scheme will remain available for agricultural expenditure and will finance other market measures, that may prove necessary in the agricultural sector.

The final figures of the second reduction period (November 2016 to January 2017) will be known at the beginning of April and will provide the full overview of this scheme.