Dairy board to consider marketing collaboration with overseas bodies

THE Irish Dairy Board (IDB) will consider marketing collaborations with a number of overseas representative dairy bodies at private meetings scheduled during next month’s global milk conference in New Zealand, says its chief executive Kevin Lane.

The IDB leader also believes that the interests of Irish dairy farmers would be best served by bringing the dairy marketing activities of all Irish dairy farmers under one umbrella.

The IDB currently represents only 60% of Irish dairy farmers, but is about to implement a new strategic plan which could attract the other 40% into the fold, Mr Lane told delegates yesterday at the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS) Ltd 36th National Conference in Citywest Hotel, Dublin.

“I am due to meet with Fonterra and others next month in New Zealand,” said Mr Lane.

“They are an €8bn business, which is four times our size. We must keep an open mind on collaborating with other businesses, if we find that they can add value to what we are doing.”

Mr Lane was speaking in reply to queries from delegates as to how Government and EU ambitions to increase Irish milk production by 50% by 2020 would translate into increased exports. Delegates also sought insights into likely profit returns per litre, given that any production increase would also involve a massive capital investment in new equipment and storage facilities, which some believe will exceed €850m.

Mr Lane cited the 25c to 26c per litre price forecasts by RaboBank and other banks for the next three to five years as being a reasonable estimate, but insisted the IDB did not have a crystal ball on this question.

What does seem certain is that the IDB’s board meeting of December 7 will seek to produce a strategy which could bring at least some of the 40% of Ireland’s non-IDB dairy farmers into the organisation.

“I think it is a nonsense that we are only representing 60% of Irish dairy farmers,” said the leader of the IDB, a government body whose primary focus is on building Irish dairy sales in export markets.

Mr Lane was speaking to a packed auditorium.

Other speakers at yesterday’s ICOS conference included ICOS president Pat McLoughlin, retail consultant James Burke, Dr Onno van Bekkum of Dutch-based Co-Op Champions, Michael Dowling of AIB Bank, ICOS dairy policy executive TJ Flanagan, Sean Myers of ICOS, and Dairygold Co-op CEO Jim Woulfe.

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