THE severe cut in the price paid to milk suppliers requires an immediate and effective response from farmer-owned processors, including agreement on the rationalisation of processing.
Independent member of the European Parliament Marian Harkin made the call when she urged the co-operatives in the west and north-east to work together to create the efficiencies necessary to stop the erosion of milk prices above the Dublin/Galway line.
“The drastic reduction in milk prices may well be a reflection of international markets but it also emphasises the need to recognise that only the most efficient dairy industry will survive in the future,” she said.
Ms Harkin warned that farmers would not stay long in milk receiving a price below the cost of production.
She said the co-ops in the west and north-east have failed to take the logical and necessary steps towards joint processing of dairy ingredients. The number of liquid milk plants is an unnecessary extra cost which makes it difficult to compete with
Ms Harkin said some things were still under the control of farmers, through their co-op ownership of milk processing in the northern half of the country. They should insist that the boards of their co-ops take the steps necessary to ensure long-term prospects for dairy farming.
“It is time to recognise that while farmer-owned co-ops provide a valuable multi-purpose service to members, they do not have the processing efficiency necessary to survive in increasingly competitive international markets for dairy products,” she said.
The European Union also has a role to play in providing the measures which would ensure the ability of Europe’s and Ireland’s farmers to continue to produce quality dairy and food products, she said.
Ms Harkin urged Tánaiste Mary Coughlan and Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith to press the EU to ease rules on state aid as an emergency measure to help Irish farming and the Irish food industry in a difficult time.
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