IFA President Joe Healy will, with National Liquid Milk Committee Chairman John Finn, next Tuesday in Dublin launch a major new Liquid Milk Strategy for Irish produced fresh milk.
President Joe Healy said, “The milk we put in our cereals each morning and in our cups of tea throughout the day depends on 1,800 specialist producers milking cows 365 days a year to guarantee consumers fresh, high quality, locally produced milk supplies all year round. Historically we have been able to take the availability of fresh milk for granted, but times have changed – and with Brexit now upon us, our fresh milk market in which 25% of sales are sourced in Northern Ireland needs such a strategy even more urgently”.
Mr Finn added, “When I started in liquid milk production in 1984, it was a profitable farming enterprise, with brands dominating the market and the largest volumes being sold door to door. Things have changed, with supermarket private labels sourced through price-based tenders dominating sales, in a cut-throat competition between dairies and retailers for market share and consumer footfall.
“The premiums paid to specialist farmers have been eroded, from an average of 4.6c/l over creamery prices in the five year period 1995-1999 to less than 2c/l for the five years to 2015,” he added.
“Farmers’ remuneration has fallen below the cost of producing liquid milk, and has also become discouraging as farmers weigh up its value against the lower cost, simpler spring calving production systems, which now allow them to expand output to optimise income.
“Irish consumers value locally produced food and have been shown by the National Dairy Council to care about supporting local jobs by purchasing NDC Guarantee marked milk. They consume milk fresh, not UHT, like the majority of Europe’s consumers do. All of the main retailers are now sourcing at least some of their private label milk offering from suppliers offering NDC marked product – but milk from Northern Ireland accounts for 25% of fresh milk sales”
“We owe it to Irish consumers as much as to Irish liquid milk producers to ensure the economic viability of our national production system to secure the constant availability of locally produced fresh milk on supermarket shelves and in restaurants for the long term.
“This will require new policies and regulations, new approaches in contracting and pricing, and a greater engagement by all stakeholders with the economic challenges of specialist liquid milk production. We are making recommendations on all those issues in our new Liquid Milk Strategy,” John Finn concluded.