ICMSA president John Comer is predicting a recovery in milk prices during 2017.

We want to see meaningful progress made by the EU Commission on the ongoing scandal of unfair trading practices engaged in by food and retail corporations, he said.

“Now that the credibility and impact of the Voluntary Reduction Scheme has been established beyond doubt, ICMSA wants this added to the normal policy toolbox and automatically triggered once milk price falls below costs of production for a set period.

“The prolonged and deep price trough from which we’ve only recently emerged was made even more damaging by the complete inadequacy of the Commission’s response and the incomprehensible delay in realising the depth of the milk price fall.

“We then had the prevarication surrounding the introduction of the Voluntary Reduction Programme.”

ICMSA was alone in pointing out that this was the only supply management tool with sufficient firepower to give the necessary degree of certainty to the market.

Comer said that ICMSA had advocated the introduction of supply-reduction scheme in the face of entrenched opposition and widespread scepticism.

“We derive no satisfaction from being proven right on milk price yet again. We cannot again even countenance a situation such as we have endured for the last 20-odd months where everyone from the farm gate onwards sees their dairy margins and profits increase while dairy farmers are wiped out.”

Comer pointed out that the triggering of Article 50, possibly next March, starts the clock on Brexit.

“I’m a naturally positive person but I have to confess to real anxiety about the way this could unfold.

“As farmers, we’re hugely supportive of the EU, but this doesn’t mean that we can completely abdicate our own national interests.”

ICMSA wants and expects to see the Irish Government really insisting that Ireland has vital national interests to a degree that no other Member State has.

“Moreover, we have every right to insist on those vital national interests being placed ‘front and centre’ in the Commission’s negotiations with the UK.”

The ICMSA President said that Ireland is the state most exposed to the negative fallout from the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, while Irish farming and agri-food are the most exposed sectors within this context.

“Our food trade with England is centuries old and we must insist that this massive trade is not destroyed by tariffs

“Whatever the shape of the final Brexit arrangement and however long it takes, Ireland will have to stand its ground and look to its own vital national interests.  We cannot allow ourselves to be put in a position where we’re asked to take one for the team.”