Retailers Aldi and Lidl have been criticised for what the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has claimed is their “aggressive and misleading strategy” on milk marketing.

Tim Cullinan, the association’s president, contended: “If [this] continues unchecked, there is a risk of a shortage of milk on shop shelves over the winter months”.

According to Cullinan, the retailers are using what he referred to as “phantom creameries and dairies” in the names of their milk.

The two retailers sell milk under the ‘Coolree Creamery’ and the ‘Clonbawn Irish Dairy’ brands. Yet neither creamery or dairy exits.

“Using these phantom local-sounding dairies and creameries is a marketing sleight-of-hand aimed at convincing consumers that they are buying local,” Cullinan asserted.

He added: “Lidl and Aldi should put the brand of the actual dairy [or] creamery where they source their milk on the carton, not fictitious dairies and creameries… There should be full transparency.”

According to the IFA, the move away from established brands has led to a sharp reduction in the retail price, which has put downward pressure on the price paid to farmers. The association says that this has led to a 25% reduction in the number of specialist fresh milk producers.

The IFA also cited figures from the National Milk Agency, which show that the producer share of the final price of milk has also fallen from 43% to 34% since 1995.

IFA liquid milk chairperson Keith O’Boyle said that the National Dairy Council (NDC) logo “is the only guarantee consumers have that the milk they are buying is produced and processed in the Republic of Ireland”.

“Retailers which continue to drive down the price will ultimately drive more farmers out of business… If these farmers don’t keep milking all year round, we will have a shortage of milk over the winter months,” O’Boyle warned.

The IFA has launched a campaign this weekend to push against this practice by retailers.

Retailers respond

Following the appearance of an advertisement in national media in which the IFA repeated these claims, both Aldi and Lidl issued statements in which they rejected the contents of the IFA advert.

Lidl said that the advert was “misleading” and “possibly defamatory”, while Aldi said that “100% of its Clonbawn-branded milk and cream is sourced from Republic of Ireland farms”.