EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan believes that Europe’s dairy industry must develop an aggressive export policy in order to overcome the future challenges posed by market volatility.

“China and South Asia are key markets in this regard,” he said.

“To this end I will ensure that trade missions to these regions will be fully supported by Brussels.”

Hogan was speaking at a recent press conference in Belfast during which he also highlighted the need for Irish dairy processers to become more innovative in the way they go about their business.

“And we are already seeing evidence of this. Glanbia’s plan to develop an infant formula plant is a case in point. The key challenge for dairy processers in Ireland is that of adding value to the milk produced by Irish farmers.”

Hogan also believes that Irish and EU dairy markets will remain stable over the coming months.

“Farmgate prices have actually risen across Europe since the turn of the year,” he said.

“Yes producer returns have fallen from the highs of twelve months ago. But the current EU average price of 32c/L represents the exact same level of return that was available to dairy farmers during the spring months of 2013.

“I keep hearing stories about the dairy sector being in crisis, but all the figures point to the industry being in a reasonable state of health.”

Hogan commended the Irish co-ops for committing to pay what he regarded as sustainable farmgate prices over the coming months.

“This, obviously, reflects their confidence in the future of the dairy industry. The medium to long term outlook for Europe’s agri food industry remains extremely bright. Fundamentally, the world needs to sustainably produce 50% more food on an annual basis in order to meet the requirements of a fast growing global population. Europe must be part of the solution that is required in this regard.”