The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has again criticised processors on the issue of milk prices, arguing that “co-ops have failed to reflect improved market returns for a few months”.

According to Tom Phelan, the association’s national dairy chairperson, this was “angering farmers and could only be explained by the co-ops’ rebuilding balance sheets after supporting farmers in 2018 and showing no ambition for spring 2020 milk prices”.

Members of the IFA’s national dairy committee are apparently planning to meet locally with their co-ops to “challenge board members and management on their unfair milk pricing policies”.

Irish milk prices have lost touch with the European trends outlined in the LTO monthly league around May of 2018, and have underperformed massively ever since, with a fast-widening gap now reaching up to 4c/L.

“While European milk prices were stable, Irish co-ops were busy cutting our late spring and summer prices,” Phelan argued.

He continued: “Irish milk prices have even fallen behind the Ornua PPI with all co-ops – other than the West Cork Co-ops – paying less than that index for the majority of the last 12 months. The October gap has widened up to 2.5c/L, worth €1,050 on that month’s supplies for a 500,000-litre supplier.

Phelan went on to claim that quoting milk prices using average solids was an attempt to “camouflage poor base milk prices”.

They have also relied on ongoing volume growth to boost farmers’ monthly milk cheques.  This is hijacking farmers’ hard work, and is insulting to them.

“All the indicators IFA monitors have been firming for a few months, as a result of fast-increasing powder prices and stable-to-firmer butter and cheese prices, all underpinned by a good global supply/demand balance looking set to last into 2020,” the IFA national dairy chairperson argued.

Phelan concluded his remarks by saying: “Farmers cannot accept being short-changed on milk price… Board members and management teams must now outline their plans to improve milk prices this year-end and before spring 2020.”