The first ever IFA Liquid Milk Forum â€˜Securing Fresh Milk Suppliesâ€™ will be held in Dublin this week.
The event will be opened by IFA President Eddie Downey, chaired by Farmersâ€™ Journal Deputy Editor Pat Oâ€™Keeffe and addressed by NMAâ€™s Dr Muiris Oâ€™Ceidigh; Teagascâ€™s Dr Joe Patton; Aurivoâ€™s Eoghan Sweeney; Tescoâ€™s Kern Kinnear and IFAâ€™s Teddy Cashman.
IFA National Liquid Milk Committee Chairman Teddy Cashman said few realised that, despite the great enthusiasm there was in the export oriented dairy sector for the post quota era, the specialist year-round producers who produced fresh milk for Irish consumers were genuinely concerned about their future viability.
â€œLiquid milk was once a viable part of a dairy processorâ€™s product mix in a seasonal industry which remunerated farmers fairly for the high costs of year-round production,â€ he added. â€œIt has now become challenging from the point of view of profitability at processor level, and the pricing systems used to remunerate farmers fail to cover adequately the real cost of their year-round or winter specialisation. Most liquid milk producers have been forced into unsustainable cross-subsidisation of liquid with creamery milk on their farms.â€
He went on to say that retailers had increased their control by prioritising the development of their lower margin private labels over local dairiesâ€™ brands. â€œMeanwhile, dairies have sought to protect or expand market share by undercutting each other, and the overall returns to dairies have diminished dramatically, Mr Cashman continued. â€œThe IFA Liquid Milk Forum will, for the first time, gather all stakeholders to identify and quantify the economic issues facing the sector. My hope is that it will help assess the challenges to the availability of high quality local milk on supermarket shelves, and find a way forward to secure the long term future of the fresh milk supplies Irish consumers clearly value.