Farm Ireland

Sunday 17 December 2017

Better profits in Buckley's sight

New IDB boss targets increased returns

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

INCREASING returns to the farmer through a more streamlined Irish Dairy Board (IDB) is one of the main aims of the newly elected IDB chairman, Vincent Buckley.

A tillage and drystock farmer from Courtbrack, near Blarney in Co Cork, Mr Buckley is currently chairman of Dairygold Co-op and takes over the IDB reins from Michael Cronin of Newmarket Co-op.

"This is the first time in a long time that a farmer has been chairman of the IDB, and I intend to be as proactive as possible in increasing returns to the farmer," said Mr Buckley following his appointment.

"The ability of the dairy board to deliver back to the co-ops is very important, as well as growing the asset value of the business," he added.

Mr Buckley believes the IDB is approaching a crossroads.

"We have a new chief executive in Kevin Lane, and there will be new ideas about where the business is going and what road to take," he said.

"But a clear strategy is not defined yet.

"However, my role as chairman of the board will be to make sure that we debate any new strategy sufficiently," he added.

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"The board will ensure there is adequate discussion and analysis of the options, followed by support for the chief executive in implementing any strategy."

The abolition of quota looms large on the horizon.

"From an IDB perspective, there could be a 30-40pc increase in milk production," said Mr Buckley. "We need to be up to the task of marketing it."

Potential restructuring of the dairy industry is also to the forefront of the chairman's mind.

"If there are changes to the industry structure, we need to assess how pivotal the IDB will be in the process," he said.

"But, first of all, the co-ops have to decide on what they are going to do about processing capacity.

"It would be wrong of us to dictate to any co-op about what it should do because they are all separate businesses in their own right.

"However, the IDB has to be open to being a vehicle for any restructuring."

The chairman insisted that now was a time for reflection on the overall strategy and maintained that all decisions should be given adequate time and not rushed.

"Apart from the industry restructuring, the IDB is a business with its own businesses throughout the world," he said.

"We need to decide which of those are strategic to the business going forward and where to invest.

"We need to choose the best model to deliver back to farmers, we can't lose sight of that," he added.

Dairy farmer and ICMSA president Jackie Cahill was elected as the vice-chairman of the IDB.

Speaking after his appointment, Mr Cahill said the aim was to make the IDB a leading player in the market.

"The key to a successful IDB is the volume of product we sell," he said.

"The only way to improve the business is to increase the volume of sales.

"There is interest in acquisitions because there have been no acquisitions by the IDB in the past six or seven years and no business can survive by standing still," said Mr Cahill.

"The board will look at all possibilities as regards acquisitions. The overall aim for the IDB is to create a more focused business.

"As regards marketing, Milk Ireland is in vogue at the moment and central marketing is a key part of that.

"Whatever about our processing capacity, Irish farmers need central marketing so that we are not competing with ourselves in the marketplace," he insisted.

Cost-cutting is another central theme, with 17 different IDB companies currently under the microscope.

"We are looking for a leaner, meaner IDB, but there will be no firm decisions taken on the companies yet," continued Mr Cahill.

"We are expecting a new set of proposals from chief executive Kevin Lane in September."

However, redundancies have already taken place in the IDB head office.

"That's the norm in a modern business," insisted Mr Cahill.

"The objective is to make the bottom line blacker."

Irish Independent