Details of a major conference on the future of the dairy sector in Moran’s Red Cow Hotel on November 19 has been announced by the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney. The event is being organised jointly with Teagasc.

Announcing the Conference, Minister Coveney commented that “we are well and truly on the countdown to the end of quotas next April and we should take stock now of where the Irish dairy sector stands in its readiness for this new era. It’s essential that we are fully aware of the current issues which might influence opportunities as well as challenges that will be faced by all stakeholders in the sector. The aim of the Conference will be to set the scene in this context and importantly will also include a focus on practical issues of concern to farmers in their efforts to drive profitability during this exciting phase of expansion and opportunity”.

The dairy sector is a critical pillar of the Irish agri-food sector, accounting for more than 30% in value of agri-food exports in 2013. The abolition of dairy quotas will be a key driver of the growth envisaged in Food Harvest 2020, and the associated increases in jobs and exports, is envisaged by 2020.

The Conference will cover three main themes:

  • the market opportunities for the Irish dairy sector to 2025;
  • the management of risk in a post-quota environment; and,
  • the on-farm efficiencies required to drive profitability at farm level.

There will be a range of high-level international and domestic speakers to address these themes in separate sessions followed by a panel discussion with relevant stakeholders in each instance. A detailed programme will be announced shortly as well as information on how to register.

Reflecting their role in the organisation of the conference, Teagasc Director, Professor Gerry Boyle said: “Innovation on dairy farms and in milk processing companies can drive efficiency, as Irish dairy farmers embrace the era of smart farming. The clear message for dairy farmers considering expanding milk production is to ensure they are as efficient as possible first through the use of the best technologies available. He stressed the importance for each individual producer to benchmark their own technical and financial performance against the best dairy farmers on similar soil types”.

Concluding, the Minister said: “it remains critically important that individual milk producers continue to manage their enterprises, having regard to the quota situation, until the expiry of the milk quota regime next March. Thankfully after that Irish farmers will be free of the shackles of quota restrictions and the sector can start to realise its vast potential. The conference in November will be about ensuring that the foundations for this expansion are solid and that we’re on course to build a sustainable and profitable sector for all.”