The chief executive of Kerry Dairy Ireland has said that the dairy industry has to “get tougher” on rogue farmers who are impacting water quality.

Pat Murphy acknowledged that while there are a lot of actions being carried out by processors and dairy farmers, much more has to be done.

A report published this week by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stated that there were no significant improvements in water quality for 2023.

The agency’s Water Quality in 2023 report identifies nutrient pollution from farming and urban wastewater as a major challenge.

‘Rogue farmers’

Pat Murphy told Agriland that the latest report was “not great reading” and that there is now more pressure on farmers when it comes to water quality.

“Farmers will have to get it right at farm level because if we don’t the consequences are catastrophic for the industry, for the business, for the farmers. I think everyone at this stage is aware.

“The issue I have sometimes is that you might have a river with 50 farmers on that river and maybe a couple of water treatment plants.

“If one farmer doesn’t do what the rest of the 49 people are doing, one rogue is enough to destroy the quality of water in the river,” he said.

“We have to get more firm with farmers that aren’t doing enough at farm level with their washings in milking parlours or with slurry storage.

“We have to do more, we have to visit each individual farm and we have to get tougher, even though it’s not nice and we don’t want to go down that road.

“But there’s no more room in this arena for rogue farmers or farmers that aren’t doing what their colleagues are doing because it’s giving the industry a bad name,” Murphy added.

Kerry Dairy Ireland

During the official launch of the expanded Cheestrings facility in Charleville, Co. Cork yesterday (Thursday, June 13), Pat Murphy appealed to the government to “ensure no stone is left unturned” in retaining Ireland’s nitrates derogation.

“The social and economic implications of derogation loss for all stakeholders in our industry is too grave to imagine,” he said.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue, who attended the event in Cork, reiterated that the government is “absolutely determined” to improve water quality and retain the derogation.

Milk price

When asked by Agriland if processors could help farmers with implementing more environmental measures through better returns for their milk, Pat Murphy said that milk prices are currently “fairly flat”.

“We’re hoping that because of the bounce in butter prices over the last couple weeks that maybe milk price might improve in the next few months, but it’s hard to know.

“The market is very volatile at the moment and the buyers out there are very slow to do big contracts.

“We had milk price at 41c/L base price in May, but that equates then to 43.5c/L for the average solids that a farmer got.

“If the cost of production today is about 34-35c/L, well then the farmers are not making a bad return on that. We’d love for it to be more,” he said.

Murphy noted that input costs are still high, but urged all farmers to put a plan in place to reduce their cost of production for the coming years.

“If the best farmers can get the production cost down to 30c/L, why can’t the other bunch of farmers do the same thing?

“There are constraints around farm size and about the type of land, but we have to get better at reducing the cost of production,” he said.


Murphy would not be drawn on speculation about the future of Kerry Dairy Ireland.

Several shareholders at the recent Kerry Group Annual General Meeting (AGM) focused on the future of the company’s dairy division and whether it could be sold.

“We’ve been listening to rumors about Kerry Dairy Ireland over the last 20 years. My focus as CEO of the businesses is to add value to our current 1.15 billion litres of milk.

“We are trying to optimise the returns to our farmers and whatever might be might be in the future, but at the moment our job is to try and create value for all stakeholders,” Murphy said.