Abolition of quotas must be planned carefully to ‘minimise the threats’

The abolition of the EU’s dairy quota restrictions in 2015 will represent both an opportunity and a challenge for Irish farmers, Ireland East MEP Mairead McGuinness said at yesterday’s Lakeland Dairies milk quality awards in Virginia, Co Cavan.

Ms McGuinness said many dairy farmers have grown up with a restrictive dairy regime, forced to farm within the quota system. Ireland is one of a few EU member states looking forward to the abolition of milk quotas in 2015 and preparing to take advantage of the opportunity to expand the sector to meet increased demand for dairy products globally, she said.

“The elimination of the quota regime must be carefully planned to maximise the opportunities and minimise the threats to the sector,” said Ms McGuinness.

“Fears for the survival of dairy farming, especially in remote and disadvantaged regions of the EU, is likely to intensify in the run-up to milk quota abolition.

“The European Parliament is currently drafting a report on the future of dairying in these regions to see what measures might be available to assist the sector regarded as important both economically and socially.”

The Commission is also holding a high-level conference on dairying in September, she added. The MEP said the message to dairy farmers from Teagasc is to upskill before scaling up.

“Dairy farming is a demanding sector requiring a sharp focus on grassland management, animal husbandry and financial skills. The emphasis is on sustainability, environmental, animal welfare and economic sustainability.

“We must again focus on the food supply chain and work to ensure that producers are fairly rewarded for their efforts. At EU level some slow progress is being made to address the imbalance in the food supply chain, but more work is needed to ensure that those who take the greatest risks, namely producers, share in the rewards,” McGuinness said, adding increased volatility in milk price is likely to be a factor in the future with measures required to protect farmers against major volatility.

McGuinness congratulated Lakeland Dairies for its commitment to its farmer supplies and to the region.

“Lakeland processes over 700m litres of milk, 90% of which is exported to 70 different countries. The company reported a 16% increase in profits for 2012, in spite of volatility in the dairy ingredients market, impacted by difficulties in many economies and lower consumer demand.”

At yesterday’s awards the Supreme Milk Quality Award winner was Andrew Gilliland, Ballybay, Co Monaghan who also won the 400,000l+ litres milk production category. The runner-up in the 400,000l+ milk production category was Patrick Traynor, Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan. James Clarke of Virginia, Co. Cavan won the 0–400,000l milk production category, followed by runners-up Seán and Donal Conefrey, Moyne, Co Longford.

The Northern Ireland Milk Quality Award winner was Roy Peake, Hillsborough, Co Down. Runner-up was Olive Woods, Maguirebridge, Co Fermanagh.


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