A delegation from the IFA presented the association’s new liquid milk strategy to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, yesterday.

The IFA President, Joe Healy, and the IFA Liquid Milk Chairman, John Finn, described their engagement with Minister Creed on the IFA’s Milk Wise 2025 Strategy as ‘constructive and positive’.

The liquid milk sector is an integral part of the Irish dairy sector and its value cannot be taken for granted, Healy said.

He also urged Minister Creed to follow up on empowering the National Milk Agency to better regulate the sector and help secure economically sustainable remuneration for specialist liquid milk producers.

Our analysis has shown that the availability over the winter months of milk from freshly-calved cows, which is the milk required for the pasteurised drinking milk consumer market, is diminishing.

“Volumes of fresh milk purchased under registered contracts for processing for liquid milk consumption fell from an 11% surplus in 2013/2014 to just 5% in 2014/2015.

“Since then, the number of dairy cows calved over the autumn months has fallen by 15% in 2015 and by 11% in 2016, suggesting that ‘cover over demand’ has fallen further.

“As this has happened at the same time as a significant national dairy expansion, it is clear that there are some very fundamental production pattern shifts happening, and this will have serious implications for potential shortages of fresh milk over winter months.

“The Minister understood our point that the erosion of margins and winter premium payments, together with the opportunities to grow creamery milk production for export created by the end of quotas, is pushing liquid milk producers to switch to spring calving,” Healy said.

Retail Issues

The IFA also intends to take up the retail-related issues in its strategy with the Department for Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation at the earliest opportunity, the IFA’s National Liquid Milk Chairman said.

We need to see an end to the purely price-based, one-year retail supply tenders – in favour of sustainable, multi-annual commercial relationships.

“The fixed milk price contracts, operated by most dairy co-ops for creamery milk, are templates that retailers (who benefit from very stable market returns) must engage with.

“We also need a broader-ranging review of retail regulations, to reintroduce the below-cost selling ban, and to provide for a well-resourced, independent ombudsman to stamp out unfair trading practices and secure fair prices for primary producers.

“There are other aspects to our strategy which are relevant to dairies and retailers, and we will be following up on those with the relevant stakeholder representatives in the coming weeks and months,” he added.