A ‘milkwise’ strategy needs to be put in place to help the liquid milk sector, according to the Irish Farmers’ Association National Liquid Milk Chairman John Finn.
Minister Michael Creed must gather and chair an assembly of all the stakeholders to force all parties to face up to the threats on the sector, Finn said.
This assembly could develop a sustainable strategy for the long term future of the liquid milk sector and integrate it into FoodWise 2025, he said.
- An end to one-year retail tenders which promote a downward wholesale and farmer price spiral, and which are the very opposite of a sound commercial relationships, the backbone of sustainable businesses.
- A complete review of farmers’ contractual arrangements, including pricing systems, to include multi annual commitments giving farmers security, and to secure a fair share of stable return from the retail market, which can vary to offset volatile base milk prices.
- A thorough study of the cohort of the 1,900 farmers currently involved in liquid milk to establish their age profile, their succession plans and their intentions regarding their production system.
- The National Milk Agency, which currently regulates the sector, must have its structures reviewed, and must be given greater powers to gather data on milk imports, but also to enforce the requirement for dairies to pay adequate compensation for farmers’ winter costs.
- A stronger retail regulation, with a return to the prohibition on below-cost selling, and the introduction of an independent, well-resourced Ombudsman, to oversee fair trading relations in the food chain and a sustainable remuneration of primary producers.
“It is striking that the number of new entrants to liquid milk has been close to zero, and that succession to a son or daughter often involves a shift to a more economically viable spring production,” Finn said.
The National Liquid Milk Chairman also urged dairies who are currently negotiating with their suppliers to see to it that the winter remuneration they will pay this winter covers farmers’ costs.
This will give suppliers the confidence they need to renew their commitment to a costly and labour intensive production system, he said.
No future in liquid milk production?
In a recent Agriland poll 66% of the farmers surveyed admitted that they think there’s no future in liquid milk production on Irish farms.
This results of the poll came after it was revealed that the number of farmers supplying liquid milk has dropped by 40% over the last 11 years.
Furthermore, almost 80% of farmers questioned suggested that they would consider making the switch from liquid milk to spring milk production.
The move away from winter milk appears to be occurring as many farmers struggle to make this system of production worth their while.