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Friday 9 December 2016

Coveney won't let Bord Bia's dairy role die

Declan O'Brien

Published 21/12/2011 | 06:00

The recent attempts by Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney to bring Bord Bia into the mix on dairy marketing appear to have been put on hold -- for the moment at least.

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It was certainly a climbdown on the part of the minister, who was quite bullish when he initially announced the introduction of a 0.1c/l statutory levy on milk supplies to fund the proposed dairy marketing unit within Bord Bia.

The initial pronouncements on the issue were of the 'my way or the highway' variety; but his approach appears to have mellowed.

One farm official said the two-month consultation period announced by the minister was "a good way to bury a bad idea".

However, I doubt if the initiative will die or that the minister, who has set a deadline for the February for agreement, will let it go.

All the various stakeholders in the industry have been invited to make submissions on how the industry should market the increased volumes of dairy produce which will come on stream when quotas are abolished in 2015.

The minister has said that he does not see Bord Bia taking over from the Irish Dairy Board (IDB) as the key promoter of Irish dairy produce.

Instead, what seems to be suggested is that Bord Bia would assist in the development of new markets for the additional milk supplies.

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One can only assume that it would then be up to the individual companies -- IDB, Kerry Group, Glanbia etc -- to do the hard sell.

Last week's developments have left the industry with as many questions as answers.

Dairy farmers will want to know if they are going to have to pay more for the marketing of their produce.

At the moment, dairy farmers pay 0.14c/l to the IDB for marketing of dairy produce and the IFA and ICMSA are adamant they will not pay a second levy.

If that is the case, how will the Bord Bia unit be funded? Will they receive a proportion of the IDB levy or will the total levy be increased, with Bord Bia getting the additional monies?

It's somewhat ironic that, after all the talk about stainless steel and how processors were going to handle the surge in milk supplies, the focus has now switched to identifying potential markets for the increased volume of dairy produce and developing a strategy to secure them.

The minister's tactics might have been off the mark but he has certainly concentrated minds on a critical aspect of the dairy growth strategy: where are we going to sell the extra milk?

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