‘The obvious way for processors to support dairy farmers is to increase the price’

Gerald Quain, chairperson of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association’s (ICMSA’s) dairy committee, said the obvious way for processors to support dairy farmers is to increase the price they pay.

Speaking to AgriLand on day one of the National Ploughing Championships, he said: “I suppose we see a gap opening up between what Ornua is paying at 33.5c/L and most of the co-ops – especially the three big ones – sticking around 32c/L. We feel they are off the mark on that.”

Commenting on the situation on the ground, he said: “I am actually in what they call the ‘drought belt’ and we have no grass actually as of yet worth while.

“We stopped feeding silage to the cows only last Monday, yesterday week. There isn’t enough grass in front of them.

“We are restricting grass and we’ve to supplement with ration and the cost of that is rising as well; so the margins that dairy farmers will have at the end of this year will bear no relation to what we had last year.

“I think the co-ops need to bridge that gap because, if we don’t make a decent margin, we won’t be able to get out of this year without massive debt.”

Meanwhile, Tom Finn, chairman of the Irish Farmers’ Association’s (IFA’s) dairy committee, said: “The ultimate arbitrator of how farmers come through this is the price they are paid for their milk. That’s how they judge their co-op.

“But alongside that, co-ops have been fairly innovative in the support they have given farmers on the ground regarding importing fodder, credit schemes and various initiatives like that.

“But at the end of the day, there are huge bills out there on farmers to be paid and there’s only one thing that’s going to pay those bills and that’s the price they get for their milk.”