IFA Liquid Milk Chairman Teddy Cashman this week presented the IFA Liquid Milk Producers’ Petition to senior officials at the Department of Agriculture in charge of overseeing the National Milk Agency (NMA). The petition was gathered in recent months to highlight concerns on the sustainability of specialist liquid milk production.
Teddy Cashman said the Government, generally, and the Department of Agriculture, in particular, have an important part to play in supporting the NMA in its role as a regulator, and need to better understand the strains the sector has been under and their potential consequences on the security of locally produced quality fresh milk supplies for Irish consumers.
“Even since we started the ball rolling on the Petition last November, 2015 autumn dairy calvings have fallen 16%, in the context of an overall increase in total dairy calvings of 8.5%. Specialist liquid milk producers are doing exactly what we predicted they would – either adjusting calving to their contract, which is economically very sensible, or actively reducing or ending their involvement in liquid milk, prioritising expanding their creamery milk production instead. Whatever their motivation, this indicates that availability of fresh milk will tighten, or even fall below demand needs in the winter months in the post-quota era,” Mr Cashman said.
“I have made it very clear to the senior Department officials we met that we need to see a review of the National Milk Agency with a view to improving its representativeness and to increase its statutory powers to fulfil its obligations under the Milk Supply Act, especially when it comes to securing “adequate compensation” for liquid milk producers. The NMA must be legally mandated to interact with retailers and food services operators in the fulfilment of this mission,” he said.
“Our new government must ensure that the liquid milk market is included in our overall dairy industry strategy. Sales of locally produced fresh milk are worth €530m on the Irish market, which provides relatively stable returns to the sector, yet our policy makers have focused on expansion for export to volatile global markets under Food Harvest 2020 and FoodWise 2025,” he added.
“Liquid milk is an important part of our dairy industry, serviced by a small number of specialised producers without whom winter demand would not be supplied. It is vital that the liquid milk sector and the producers be rightly valued and nurtured, in the best interest of Irish consumers” he concluded