IFA National Dairy Committee Chairman Sean O’Leary said the current round of top level meetings with the leadership of the main co-ops, IFA President Eddie Downey and himself were addressing robustly a broad dairy agenda of concern to all dairy farmers.
He said the subjects broached ranged from the short term issues of the 2014 milk prices to the much longer term development plans, with particular emphasis on the need to optimise efficiency, including through collaboration with other milk processors and the Irish Dairy Board, to secure the long term livelihoods of dairy farmers.
“We are about a third of the way through our series of meetings with the top leadership of dairy co-ops, and are having very detailed exchanges with them on a broad range of issues of concern to all milk producers,” Mr O’Leary said.
“We are urging them all to boost farmers’ confidence in a difficult early spring by committing to hold prices at current levels for 2014. With robust demand still sustaining strong dairy prices despite increased global output, this is a very realistic expectation,” he said.
“For the longer term, we are also enquiring in detail into their development plans, how they propose to fund them, and where a farmer contribution is required, how they will minimise recourse to scarce resources by collaborating with neighbouring co-ops. We are also encouraging them to develop jointly with the IDB fixed price contracts and other hedging mechanisms to help farmers mitigate the impact of income volatility,” he added.
“Where milk supply agreements are being mooted, we have recommended very thorough consultation with co-op members, and have sought to feed into the consultation processes based on the feedback we are getting from IFA members, to ensure that milk supply agreements are truly fair and equitable to farmers,” he said.
“We are very aware that complacency can set in when commodity prices are strong, as they are at present. We are therefore pressing all co-ops quite robustly to ensure that they do not miss out on opportunities to reduce the costs of their development plans through collaboration with their neighbours, and to put at all times the best interest of their shareholder suppliers ahead of other considerations,” he concluded.