Labour Shortages, Price Volatility and Brexit the Greatest Challenges to Irish Dairy

Speaking from Moorepark 2017, this year’s Teagasc Dairy Open Day in Fermoy today, IFA National Dairy Committee Chairman Sean O’Leary said Irish dairy farmers, supported by industry stakeholders and quality production advice from Teagasc, have very real potential to supply a growing international demand for quality, sustainably produced milk.

However, he warned shortages of skilled labour on expanding dairy farms need to be overcome in the short term, and price and income volatility mitigated through more innovative hedging, taxation and financial solutions.

Longer term, the negotiations on the future trading relationship between the UK and the EU (including Ireland) need to allow for the continuation of existing trade flows, as unimpeded as possible, while industry needs to develop new markets to help reduce the sector’s reliance on the British market.

“Focusing on Resilient Dairying, from a cow, grass, land, people and industry perspective, the Open Day is a positive display of all the strengths that can be built upon in the sector to place us among the top sustainable global dairy producers. Today’s event is all about positively supporting the sector with the outcomes of world class research,” Mr O’Leary said.

“However, a shortage of skilled labour has proved a major issue on farms, last spring especially, and we need to identify and train suitable candidates. Dairy farming can offer long-term attractive career options, and must be promoted as such among farmers in other sectors, agricultural students, but also those outside of agriculture,” he added.

“Beyond the farm gate, farmers will continue to struggle with price and income volatility. Industry stakeholders must develop more hedging options beyond fixed milk price contracts – futures based hedging, for example,” he said.

“Our government must build on the taxation changes already made in the last two years, and allow farmers to engage in precautionary, tax efficient savings in good years. Our financial institutions must also provide more competitively priced financial packages for both short and long term needs which permit flexible repayments reflecting price and revenue levels,” Sean O’Leary concluded.

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