If we don’t produce food sustainably, someone else will, according to John Byrne of Aurivo Dairy Ingredients. However, he said that many of the aspects of sustainability are good farming practise on most good dairy farms and should not cost farmers.

Speaking at the National Dairy Council (NDC) annual conference in Dublin today, he said that customers are looking for sustainability and have developed an interest in nutrition and the source of raw materials. “Unilever has stated that by 2020 all of its agricultural raw materials will have to come from sustainable sources. That is something all processors and producers have to stand up and listen to. If we don’t produce sustainably, someone else will.” 

Sean Molloy, Glanbia, told the conference that added value is taking over from quality at a basic level as a selling point. “Regardless of what category of food you are selling, you start with the basis of quality. Regardless of what category of customer we are targeting internationally, we start our customers on the farm to understand the quality regime starts there.” 

Pat Dillon, Teagasc, said that quality is a given when it comes to new dairy markets and Ireland has lots of advantages. “We have lots of advantages: we are competitive and quality is a key aspect for us and the environment is important to us. It will be about building on these and becoming better and better. He said that while some farmers may give out about compliance, we have no choice, and a lot of the quality parameters don’t cost farmers extra.

Sean Molloy, Kerry Agribusiness, said what constitutes sustainability varies from market to market. Consumers in China, he said, said think about sustainability with regard to quality, while Europeans worry about animal welfare and the environment when they think about sustainability.

He also said that Ireland is very competitive and is probably one of the best environments in the world to produce milk. “However, we can’t get complacent and we are only as strong as the weakest link. If one thing goes wrong in the chain we all suffer.”