Liquid Milk Sustainability in Question as IFA Predictions Come to Pass

Speaking from this week’s meeting of the National Milk Agency, at which he presented Chairman Denis Murphy and CEO Muiris O Ceidigh with the IFA Liquid Milk Producers’ Petition, IFA National Liquid Milk Committee Chairman Teddy Cashman said many of the predictions made last Autumn by the Committee had by now come to pass.

Speaking following the signing into law of new retail regulations this week, Teddy Cashman said it is crucial that neither retailers, dairies, regulators, government nor consumers would take locally produced, fresh liquid milk for granted post-quota, and would take on board the need for fit-for-purpose payment structures and levels that allow farmers to cover their costs and pay themselves a reasonable wage.

“In the prime autumn calving season, from September to December 2015, ICBF reported almost 14,000 fewer dairy calf births – a 15% fall in comparison with the same period last year, in the context of an 8.5% increase in calf births for the whole year. This clearly indicates that farmers are doing what we predicted last year: matching their calving pattern more closely to their liquid milk contracts to minimise losses, or even reducing or ceasing their commitment to liquid milk altogether,” Mr Cashman said.

“We had also correctly predicted that low base milk prices were boosted during the autumn by relatively strong constituents, but that, even with an unchanged price, constituents would all but collapse during December and January, cutting at least 6c for every litre produced, at the most expensive time of year to produce milk,” he added.

“I believe that we are seeing for the first time farmers under increased pressure to either reduce or cease their commitment to liquid milk, or to adapt more closely their calving pattern to their contracts. While the latter is an economically wise option for farmers who wish to remain in liquid milk, reduced calving in autumn creates a situation where dairies will have much tighter availability of fresh, high quality milk for consumers to drink during the winter,” he said.

“It is vital that our regulators – the NMA, the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission – our electioneering politicians, Government and retailers would bear in mind that liquid milk needs adequate levels of stable remuneration with strong winter payments, as well as regulation within the retail sector to protect primary producers, in the best interest of consumers,” Teddy Cashman concluded.

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