Farm Ireland

Thursday 23 November 2017

Fonterra move interesting in current climate

Last week's agri-business conference in Croke Park featured some interesting contributions on the state of the global food processing sector. The news that New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra is actively looking for partnership arrangements with processors here or in Britain is of particular interest given the ongoing debate on how the Irish dairy industry is going to handle up to 40pc more milk post-2015.

Dairy farmers here would certainly be keen to know who the Kiwis are talking to and what the implications are, if any, for Ireland's expansion plans.

Milk supplies are still flying in at co-op level. Dairygold confirmed this week that it is 10.5pc over quota and deliveries for May were 4pc ahead of last year and 16pc ahead of May 2009.

Given that the Munster co-op's experience is probably indicative of the overall national situation, the brakes will have to be applied at farm level if we are to avoid a serious superlevy problem next spring.

Meanwhile, recent comments by Minister Coveney regarding the positive potential of Irish agriculture have come in for some stick from the ICMSA's deputy president John Comer.

Mr Comer claimed there was a fundamental contradiction between what he called the Government's "media-focused cheerleading" for the farming and food sectors and the actual policy being implemented by them.

"At this stage, farmers and the wider agri-sector might be forgiven for asking a very fundamental question: what exactly is the Minister's policy regarding agricultural development," Mr Comer said.

The summary suspension of all grant schemes for on-farm development and improvement is a virtual dismantling of the policy aimed at dairy expansion and the ending of Stamp Duty Relief for Farm Consolidation highlighted the contradiction between the public statements and the actual policy being implemented, Mr Comer maintained.

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"The Minister's honeymoon is over and we require a reduction in windy rhetoric about how Irish farming will 'feed the world' and a good deal more hard progressive policies that will be implemented without delay," he added.

Minister Coveney, like Brendan Smith before him, has been dealt a tough hand.

The dismal state of the public finances means he has very little in the way of funding to play with.

Ironically, with agriculture being viewed as one of the few bright spots in the economy at the moment, the case for continued support of the sector at national level is more difficult to press.

With up to €3.6bn in savings being sought from the upcoming Government review of expenditure and the next budget, the sad fact is that more cuts could be in the pipeline.

Indo Farming