The move by Glanbia to introduce a peak milk supply management mechanism has been described as “hugely disappointing” by the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA).

Pat McCormack, the association’s president, was speaking following a meeting with Glanbia Ireland when he lamented that “an Irish processor has found itself in a situation outside of its control whereby it must introduce such a scheme and restrict family farms from reaching their sustainable potential on an annual basis”.

“While the impression is given by some that Irish dairy is based on a factory-scale operation, the reality is that Irish dairy is dominated by real family farm operations producing milk sustainably off grass in a way that economically ‘backbones’ the rural communities involved,” McCormack said.

McCormack suggested that the planned restrictions on peak milk supply, set to come into effect from next year, are as a result of a legal dispute Glanbia is engaged in.

This, he said, is “putting family farms at risk, and that it is factory-farming dairying in other countries that will benefit”.

“It is now essential that our government acknowledge the importance of milk production to the rural dairying communities and the wider national economy and puts in place a policy that allows dairy to continue to develop sustainably without being tied up in legal disputes,” The ICMSA president argued.

He added: “The attacks on dairy have gone on for far too long and it is time that our Minister for Agriculture and our government robustly defends the sector and allows for its future development.”

According to McCormack, the peak management proposal will create “serious difficulties” for many farmers. He called for each individual supplier to be provided with the details of the implications “as soon as possible”.

He also called on the board of Glanbia to review the proposal and to make any necessary amendments to address issues that may arise.

“This must only be a temporary measure and the necessary capacity should be put in place as soon as possible. Future government policy will be critical. They either decide to allow family farms to expand sustainably or they shut us down, with the catastrophic implications for our rural and national economies,” McCormack concluded.