International dairy markets have bottomed out, according to ICMSA president John Comer.

“There are now indications that producer prices will start to rise slowly over the coming months, which should deliver more sustainable returns for dairy farmers next spring,” he said.

“But there is a difference between simply covering costs and making a living. At a price of 28c/L, which may well be available during next year’s spring flush, farmers will be able to pay their bills: but not much else.

“We need to see prices rises well above this level.”

Comer was speaking on Day 3 of the National Ploughing Championship in Co. Laois.

He said that the ICMSA dairy committee will meet shortly to decide on how the EU aid money, agreed in Brussels a fortnight ago, should be made available to farmers.

“There are three main options on the table: a payment per litre, a payment per cow or a payment per farm.

“Some groupings have proposed that the aid monies should be used to fund cheaper finance for farmers. ICMSA is totally opposed to this approach – we back the principle of putting money directly into farmers’ pockets.

“We also want the Irish Government to top up the EU aid package with national funding.”

Comer believes the banks must do more to support Irish agriculture across the board.

“Our recent survey confirms that farmers in this country are currently paying €80m more in annual interest payments than would be the case were they operating in other EU member states.

“This is an added burden, which Irish farmers should not be shouldering”.

The ICMSA President said that Irish dairy remains on track to grow significantly over the coming years.

“But, given what has happened to markets over the past few months, farmers now know the real scale of the challenge that confronts them. And it’s up to each producer to plan accordingly.”