'No change needed to 2015 milk price' - Kerry

The arbitration stated that both sides must now negotiate further
The arbitration stated that both sides must now negotiate further
ICMSA's Gerald Quain
Claire Fox

Claire Fox

Kerry Group is due to meet the Kerry Co-op Leading Milk price committee on November 14 to discuss the ongoing leading milk price dispute.

Last week over 20 milk suppliers protested outside the Kerry Group Headquarters in Tralee as they said it has been nearly two months since an arbitrator ruled that a West Cork milk price must be included in any comparison of a leading milk price.

Some farmers claim that they could be owed thousands in milk payments and that any milk price difference should be applied to the four years after 2015 and not just 2015.

However a Kerry Group spokesperson stated that it has begun a review of the calculations of the 2015 milk price and that the "review to date indicates no adjustment to the 2015 Kerry milk price payment".

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"Our review of 2015 milk prices paid by other processors and milk processors is very detailed and extensive to determine milk price on a 'like-for-like basis' bearing in mind subsidisation by some other co-ops from other significant sources of incomes outside milk."

While claims were made by suppliers that no meeting had taken place between Kerry Group and Kerry Co-op since the arbitration ruling at the start of September, Kerry Group said that it has been in "continuous" talks with Kerry Co-op and plans to meet the leading milk price committee on November 14.

"We have been in continuous talks with Kerry Co-op milk supplier representatives and Kerry agribusiness personnel have attended multiple co-op advisory committees in the past number of weeks," the spokesperson for Kerry Group said.

"Furthermore, in relation to the 2015 milk supply contract, a meeting has been confirmed with the co-op's leading milk price committee due to be held on November 14."

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The milk price dispute dates back to 2015 when Kerry's commitment to pay a "leading milk price" nationally on a "like-for-like basis" came in to question.

Kerry Group offered a payment of 1.75c/l to resolve the dispute in 2017, but this was rejected by the milk suppliers, and an arbitration process ensued last year.

The arbitrator ruled that the milk price paid the West Cork co-ops must be included in the computation of this leading price.

Kerry Group and Kerry Co-op were also urged by the arbitrator to hold further talks on the matter to seek a compromise solution.

While it is understood that Kerry suppliers may escalate their protests this week, other suppliers feel the dispute "will drag on" and that they are unlikely to see any money.

ICMSA dairy chair and Kerry supplier Ger Quain told the Farming Independent that it is essential that the leading milk price commitment is delivered in full for the outstanding years and payment is made to farmers as soon as possible.

"There was a question mark about what formula would be used to arrive at the calculation of the leading milk price," the ICMSA representative stated.

"And the arbitration process has now clarified the issue and indicated that the West Cork Co-ops - who are, year-on-year, the highest paying co-ops in the State - must be included in calculating what the leading milk price is," explained Mr Quain.

"That's where the matter was left and it's up to Kerry to make good on their commitment in a way that satisfies that formula of 'leading milk price'," he added.

Kerry Co-op were contacted by the Farming Independent on the leading milk price issue but declined to comment.

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