The strength of co-ops is that they are farmer owned, but they must ensure that profits go to farmers not shareholders in Dublin or Paris, according to Frans Keurentjes, of FrieslandCampina.

He was speaking at the National Dairy Conference and said that to be cost effective dairy co-ops must follow the role of added value and ensure the added value comes back to the farmer. He said the farmer must be the owner of the co-op to ensure they get the extra 3,4 or 5c/L from added value, and ensure the extra is not going to the shareholder in Dublin or Paris.

Francis Reid, Policy and Advocacy Manager with Fonterra Europe said that neither Ireland nor New Zealand should be looking to ‘feed the world’. He said that both countries, Ireland and New Zealand are small in the greater scale on things and the growth in global consumption is the equivalent of one New Zealand every year. New Zealand, he said, has high end, high quality producers who have the ability to produce high end products. “We can’t feed the world. We need to carve out a high-value, niche product.”

IFA President Eddie Downey said that Irish co-ops need to collectively concentrate on the end goal of targeting growing middle class consumers. He said that efficiency at co-op level must also be looked at. Everyone building a ‘trophy plant’, he said, is a situation that needs to be looked at.

FrieslandCampina is a is one of the five largest companies in the world and is co-op with 19,244 dairy farmers members in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium.