World Milk Day: Tributes made to dairy farmers and processors

Today, Monday, June 1, is United Nations (UN) World Milk Day 2020, and to mark the occasion, the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS) is paying tribute to dairy farmers and processors, particularly in light of the Covid-19 pandemic and the challenges it has brought.

ICOS president Jerry Long has noted the “excellent response and contribution throughout the current crisis”, adding that dairy farmers are “underpinning the national food supply chain and the continuation of Ireland’s highly valuable dairy export industry”.

This is the twentieth year of World Milk Day, which was established by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to recognise milk as a globally essential food.

Milk has a special place in homes and communities throughout Ireland.

“It is naturally produced, wholesome and nutritious and its constituents are used in a vast range of consumer food products like cream, butter, cheese and dairy ingredients, including milk powders which have multiple applications in every food manufacturing sector you can possibly think of,” Long said.

The ICOS president added: “The commitment of Irish dairy farming families over many generations to produce milk of the highest possible quality, primarily through the pasture-based system of grazing fresh grass, provides the litre of milk as the very building block of our entire industry.

“The dairy processing sector adds major value to that milk as a key pillar of Irish food and drink exports, yielding €4.4 billion in value to the Irish economy last year.”

Long also noted the importance of the co-operative movement to the Irish dairy sector over the decades.

“Founded in 1894, the co-operative movement has empowered farming communities collectively to grow the agriculture and food industry that we have today,” he said.

“Co-operatives are at the heart of our dairy processing sector, where we have a major commitment to economic progress on a sustainable platform including, most particularly, the protection of our environment through sustainable production and processing practices now and into the future,” Long highlighted.

National Dairy Council

The National Dairy Council (NDC) said World Milk Day is a platform to actively raise awareness about the benefits of milk and dairy products around the world – including how dairy supports the livelihoods of “one billion people”.

This year NDC has enlisted Irish rugby sevens star and Love Island winner Greg O’Shea and lightweight amateur boxer and double world medallist Kellie Harrington as ambassadors of its ‘Everything Starts with Milk’ campaign – a European Milk Forum campaign focused on encouraging Irish consumers to drink more quality milk from Europe.

Some of the key messages being highlighting today include the following: “In Ireland, approximately 99% of the water used for milk production is supplied naturally by rainfall. With almost zero impact on water stress, Ireland is one of the best places in the world for sustainable milk production.

“Milk is naturally one of the most nutrient dense foods available; just 100ml is a source of eight essential nutrients, namely: protein; riboflavin; vitamin B12; calcium; iodine; potassium; phosphorus; and pantothenic acid,” NDC states.

It also outlined that dairy production is a major contributor to the Irish economy, with export value reaching around €4 billion each year. The sector supports 60,000 jobs with the NDC also explaining that “for every €1 spent in the sector, an additional €2.50 is spent in the Irish economy”.

European Dairy Association

Meanwhile, with 12,000 milk and dairy processing sites across Europe, the European Dairy Association (EDA) is also marking today’s occasion.

Our sector represents the economic backbone of rural Europe and the industrial basis in many so-called less favoured areas.

“We partner on a daily basis with more than 700,000 dairy farms, accounting for 14% of the whole EU food industry.

“Together with over 300,000 industry employees – out of which 45,000 are directly linked to EU dairy exports – we all guarantee the high quality of our raw material and our dairy products, which are an essential part of our culinary heritage and of our European cultural treasure,” the EDA said in a statement.

The EDA concluded by outlining that milk and dairy consumption in the EU is expected to remain stable over the coming years, while it is projected that global demand will increase by 2% per annum over the coming decades.