‘British blockade of Irish dairy would be pointless’

A blockade of Irish dairy products by British farmers would be unlikely and counterproductive, according to the former General Secretary of ICMSA, Ciaran Dolan.

The Limerick-based economist and dairy consultant also said it was not the case that Ireland was flooding the British market with its dairy products.

Dolan was responding to criticisms of the Irish dairy industry made by Barry Wilson, editor-owner of the UK-based Dairy Industry Newsletter.

Wilson had claimed that if Ireland continues to expand its dairy production as fast as it has in the last 12 months then it “could be going to war with British farmers” if it crashes the UK market with Irish dairy imports.

“I don’t think that will or should happen and if it were to happen it won’t solve the problems of the British farmer,” Dolan said.

“The British farmers are likely to have to cut back production to meet the market, both in the UK and externally.”

In addition, he said milk production in the UK has also run very high in the last year, in comparison to the year previous, and that Ireland only represented about 10% of the imported cheddar in the UK in 2014, whereas Irish butter imports accounted for even less.

“Even if the British farmers did interfere with Irish imports, it’s not going to solve their problems as there is a significant over supply of milk in Europe.

“The oversupply isn’t some temporary imbalance as there needs to be a substantial long-term adjustment.”

Dolan added that he believed Wilson was incorrect to say that 100% of milk is controlled by coops in Ireland, as he understands the figure is closer to 45%.

‘Cruel hand of the market place’

Two weeks ago, French Agriculture Minister Stéphane Le Foll met with significant players in the French dairy sector to consider how to implement newly-agreed EU milk supply control measures.

It is understood that key Member States and EU officials also then met to flesh out the implementation of the new measures.

However, Dolan said it is not possible for each country in the EU to successfully introduce its own semi-formal supply control, while operating in a single market.

“What will happen is the very cruel hand of the market place will bring about a balance [between supply and demand]. For over 150 years, governments have struggled with supply and demand in the food sector and the only effective resolution has been direct intervention.”

Dolan added that the pending adjustment between supply and demand in the Irish dairy industry will not be simple or painless.

“I’m shocked at the lack of analyses and realisation of the adjustment required… As I have asked a number of times, where are the public policy analysts in this area? They’re nowhere to be heard or read.”