IFA President Eddie Downey today (Tuesday) led a delegation, including the IFA National Dairy Chairman Sean O’Leary and Liquid Milk Chairman Teddy Cashman, to discuss with the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture on the opportunities and challenges for dairy farmers now that quotas are at an end.
“The end of 31 years of quota creates a real opportunity for Irish milk producers, who operate cost-competitive, grass-based production systems, to supply fast growing global dairy demand for high quality, sustainably produced dairy products and ingredients,” Mr Downey told the Joint Oireachtas Committee.
“However, this positive outlook comes with major challenges around volatility of prices and input costs in particular. Dairy farmers all over the world are currently living through a difficult period of sustained low milk prices. Extreme income volatility, for dairy farmers, has been the norm since 2007. Farmers will need tax policies and milk price instruments to help them manage this reality,” he said.
“In addition, farmers will need well-resourced advisory services to help them improve efficiencies further. The Government must also ensure that the banks give farmers access to flexible, internationally competitively priced finance with variable repayments to reflect income variations,” he added.
“In the COP in Paris in December, the Government must secure climate change legislation which gives farmers credit for their low carbon footprint in the global context, and which does not prevent them from expanding sustainably,” he said.
IFA National Dairy Chairman Sean O’Leary added: “In the short to medium term, the biggest issue for dairy farmers is cash flow, and it will get more problematic in spring, with lower constituents depressing milk returns further. Industry stakeholders, banks and government must move to urgently take action individually and collectively to help farmers deal with the new reality of extreme income volatility for the long term”.
IFA Liquid Milk Chairman Teddy Cashman said: “In our dairy expansion plans, we must nurture our domestic market for liquid milk – at €530m retail value, it is worth nearly 20% of our dairy exports. Following the first winter after the end of quotas, liquid milk producers have more options. Unless they are provided with payment systems which fully remunerate their costs, liquid milk producers will vote with their feet, with negative consequences for the consistent availability of fresh, local milk for consumers”.