Imports of British dairy hurts quality assurance
At risk of sounding like the proverbial broken record, the issue of milk imports is the subject of this week's viewpoint once more.
Last week's news report showed how milk imports into the Republic have almost doubled for the first two months of the year compared to 2013.
The volumes imported are also significant, totalling 90m litres for January alone. To put this in perspective, the Republic's total superlevy fine of €15m was generated by an oversupply of around 55m litres.
The vast bulk of the milk came from Northern Ireland, but 9.28m litres was imported directly from Britain.
However, the real difficulty with the imported milk is not the volumes involved, it is with the quality assurance claims that Ireland is going to be making soon about its dairy industry and about its milk supply.
How can Ireland make claims on the sustainability of its industry and on traceability if the industry is buying in supplies from Britain?
The milk imported from Britain is undoubtedly top quality milk that is produced to equivalent standards to that produced here. But the fact remains that it is not Irish milk and the farmers producing it are not Irish farmers.
Lakeland Dairies and North Cork Co-op have accepted they have imported milk this spring. North Cork claims that it processes the imported milk separately. However, Lakelands declined to comment when asked if it processed milk imported from Britain separately from locally sourced milk.