A flat ‘per dairy farm’ distribution of Ireland’s €13.7m share of the €420m EU dairy aid fund is the fairest option for all concerned according to ICMSA President John Comer.

He said that such a mechanism is the fairest and the most workable option in the circumstances and was also likely to be the speediest in a context where getting the money to dairy farmers as quickly as possible must be seen as priority.

“The other issue is that of the Government’s commitment to providing a top-up to the Brussels’ measures. I met the Taoiseach at the Ploughing last week, at which time he indicated his support for such a measure.

“I hope that Minister Coveney is in a position to reflect these views at tomorrow’s meeting.”

The inaugural meeting of the Dairy Forum will take place today (Tuesday) in Dublin with the Minister for Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney in the chair.

ICOS will use the meeting to push for the introduction of support tools that will allow Ireland’s milk industry to cope with the future challenges of volatility.

“This is the core message that we will deliver to the Forum,” said ICOS Dairy Executive T J Flanagan.

He envisages a mix of three business development measures being brought to bear, as the dairy sector faces up to volatility: fixed price contracts, tailored EU support measures and the development of hedging tools that meet the specific needs of milk producers.

“International dairy markets are starting to pick up again,” he said.

“But it is inevitable that, at that some stage in the future, they will start to turn in the opposite direction. We need the envisaged hedging and other dairy support tools fully developed by the time this change in circumstances comes around.”

IFA President Eddie Downey and Dairy Chairman Sean O’Leary have made a written submission to the Minister, setting out the key issues to be addressed by the Forum.

“The inaugural meeting of the Dairy Forum is timely, as current weak dairy markets are focusing all stakeholders on the need to find solutions to the income difficulties created by extreme milk price volatility,” said Downey.

“First and foremost, the Dairy Forum must ensure that all relevant stakeholders, including the co-ops, input merchants, Teagasc, banks and the government, get proactively involved in helping farmers manage the difficult situation and especially cash flow.

“Flexible and competitively priced loan repayment options and full delivery on the increased advance payment of the EU Basic and Rural Development payments are vital,” he said.