Ireland’s current set up of five international marketing platforms, 10 processing co-ops and 13 milk purchasing co-operatives is not serving dairy farmers’ best interests, according to ICOS President Bertie O’Leary.

Speaking at the ICOS conference, he said that co-ops must continue to co-operate in a manner that enables them to compete with large investor owned firms, and it was regrettable that the pace of consolidation among dairy co-ops has not been faster.

“I urge the current generation of chairmen and directors to focus more urgently on the question of rationalisation and consolidation.

“Facing into an ever increasing, global competitive marketplace with five international marketing platforms, 10 processing co-operatives and a further 13 milk purchasing co-operatives is not serving farmers’ best interests.

“A key part of achieving more rapid change must be found.  The support and commitment that co-operative boards will give to the proposed Plunkett Institute for Co-operative Governance must support the agenda of consolidation and the achievement of world class economies of scale for the benefit of producers.”

The Role of Co-operatives as a means to improving Producer Influence in the Global Food Supply Chain’ was the theme of the ICOS National Conference in Portlaoise.

The Plunkett Institute

The Conference also heralded the establishment of a new institute – The Plunkett Institute for Co-operative Governance. Together with ICOS, this will act as an expert body supporting the governance of Irish co-operative organisations and continuous professional development.  It will work with all levels of farmers, from new entrants to regional committee members and experienced directors, to ensure that the industry is well served with capable, educated and experienced decision makers.  The Institute is named after Sir Horace Plunkett (1854 – 1932) – the founder of the Irish Co-operative movement.