The priority now on foot of the emergent dairy recovery is on the development of measures which can minimise the effects of such downward volatility in the future, the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, has said.

The Minister was speaking this evening, December 7, after he hosted the his second meeting of the Dairy Forum with key stakeholders from the Irish dairy sector.

Despite the recent prolonged global price trough, the long term fundamentals of the Irish dairy sector are sound, the Minister said.

“A key response to market uncertainty lies in the development and growth of international markets and to this end I have led a number of international trade missions this year including to Asia and North Africa.

“Further development of international markets for Irish agri-food will be a priority for 2017.”

The Forum meets a commitment in the current Programme for Government and addresses the need for a collaborative strategic approach to the issues facing the sector including market volatility.

Outlook for the Irish dairy sector in 2017

The Forum today discussed the outlook for the Irish dairy sector in 2017.

“The dairy forum is more important than ever, given the extraordinary challenge facing Ireland’s agri-food sector in the wake of the UK’s decision to leave the EU,” the Minister said.

Minister Creed said that challenging times like these call for a strategic approach and vision.

This imperative was the driver behind the Food Wise strategy and its recommendations are more relevant now than ever, he said.

On the market outlook for 2017, the Teagasc outlook for next year forecasts improved prices and incomes for dairy farmers.

Recent price trends have been positive but there is clearly no room for complacency.

“While the medium term prospects for global dairy markets are good, the sector needs to work cohesively to deal with upcoming challenges such as price volatility and the effects of Brexit.

“I have been working closely with my Northern Ireland counterpart, Michelle McIlveen, and my UK counterpart, Andrea Leadsom on these issues.”

Current measures to assist the dairy sector

The Minister also updated the Forum on recent measures to assist the dairy sector.

This included the new low-cost credit scheme to be rolled out by SBCI in the near future, as well as the advance payment of €1.2 billion in 2016 Basic Payment Scheme payments.

Access to finance was also discussed with an exchange of views with the main banks now a firm part of the agenda at each dairy forum.

“As I have previously stated, one of my priorities under the Programme for Government will be to support the provision of lower cost and more flexible finance for the sector.

“This has been rolled out now in this low cost loan product by SBCI, using funds provided by my Department and the EU.”

I will continue to work with all stakeholders, including the banking sector to ensure that maximum flexibility is afforded to farmers in order to help them manage their businesses in a volatile environment.

The forum also featured presentations from Bord Bia, who provided an update on the Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme (SDAS) and from Animal Health Ireland on the current position regarding the proposed Johne’s Programme.

According to the Department of Agriculture, there was consensus among stakeholders that the SDAS was a critical factor in ensuring that Irish dairy products have access to premium markets.

There was also a consensus that efforts should be made to encourage the small number of farmers still outside the scheme to engage with it.