According to Dairy Council for Northern Ireland chief executive Mike Johnston, milk produced in Northern Ireland continues to ‘flow’ cross border for processing.

“The issue concerning dairy products of mixed Irish origin being accepted for EU exports to third countries has yet to be resolved.

“This is a matter that impacts on the Irish dairy industry, north and south. It is an issue that must be resolved quickly.

With this in mind, I was extremely encouraged by the public stance taken on the matter by Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney earlier this week.

Mike Johnston added that he did not want to countenance an unsatisfactory conclusion to this important matter.

“The significance of this issue for the Irish dairy industry is now well recognised. What’s more, there is strong support from many quarters to have it resolved in a way that best meets the needs of the milk sector as a whole.”

Future for dairy

Referring to the prospects for dairy in 2021, the Dairy Council representative said that the positive outcomes recorded at the last five Global Dairy Trade (GDT) events have had a very welcome and stabilising impact on the local milk sector.

“China is very active on international markets at the present time. From a milk supply perspective, output has faltered in the EU over recent months while New Zealand and Australia have recently been impacted by drought conditions,” he said.

“These factors are combining to deliver relatively stable conditions on dairy markets around the world at the present time.”

Impact of Covid-19

Looking back on 2020, Johnston confirmed that dairy markets took a significant downturn in the weeks following the introduction of the initial Covid-19 lockdown.

“Thankfully markets recovered later in the year. Farmers trying to look forward 12 months ago would have found it difficult to predict the relatively encouraging drivers that characterise world dairy markets at the present time,” he added.

This is all very positive, as has been the resilience shown by local milk producers and the entire dairy processing chain since the outbreak of the pandemic.

Looking forward, Mike Johnston is taking nothing for granted.

“What happens if China takes a further hit from Covid-19? Such a development could have a very negative impact on dairy markets,” he told AgriLand.

“From a production point of view, there is a strong prospect of rains breaking the drought in Australasia. Recent months have also seen US milk suppliers upping their production levels on the back of government support packages.

“The likelihood is that we will see this additional product being offloaded on to markets in the not too distant future. So it would be foolish to take the current stable market conditions for granted moving forward,” he concluded.