A delegation from ICOS recently met with European Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan and presented the Commissioner with several measures to help the dairy sector.

The meeting took place ahead of next week’s EU Ministerial Agricultural Council meeting.

ICOS President Martin Keane used the opportunity to press home to Commissioner Hogan an understanding of the protracted difficulties currently faced by the Irish dairy sector and the extent to which dairy co-operatives have been supporting their members over the past 12 months.

He told the Commissioner that there is a need for decisive action by the Commission to address these issues in the face of continuing volatility in world dairy markets.

Jerry Long, Commissioner Hogan, Martin Keane, T.J. Flanagan (ICOS Dairy Policy Executive) and Conor Mulvihill (ICOS European Affairs Executive)

Jerry Long, Commissioner Hogan, Martin Keane, T.J. Flanagan (ICOS Dairy Policy Executive) and Conor Mulvihill (ICOS European Affairs Executive)

In a wide ranging and constructive discussion ICOS suggested seven measures necessary to alter current conditions:

Short term

  • A more flexible approach to the operation of Private Storage Aid (PSA) tool, such as the re-inclusion of cheese and adjusting timings of product entry and exit.
  • Superlevy funds collected should be reinvested in dairy market supports, including emergency intervention to address the market overhang caused by the Russian ban.
  • Early payment of a significant portion of this year’s direct payments to aid the cash flow crisis at farm level.

Medium term

  • Trigger the review mechanism of the CAP to increase intervention threshold prices to reflect higher production costs.
  • EU to redouble its efforts to further open third country markets including robust promotion measures.
  • Strengthening of the European Milk Market Observatory which can facilitate the development of a European Dairy Futures market. This tool could be used by co-ops on behalf of their members to counter volatility.
  • European Investment Fund needs to be leveraged in conjunction with our Rural Development Plan (RDP) to encourage investment in our co-operative industry, and especially for the development of young farmers.

Keane said that Europe must act now to stabilise the position of its dairy sector so that it will retain its strength and competitiveness on a global basis.

“If appropriate measures are taken now, this will enable the Irish and European dairy industry to benefit positively from a market resurgence when it takes place,” he said.

ICOS represents co-operatives and organisations in Ireland – including the Irish dairy processing co-ops and livestock marts – whose associated businesses have a combined turnover in the region of €14 billion, with some 150,000 individual members, employing 12,000 people in Ireland, and a further 24,000 people overseas.