Farm Ireland

Saturday 16 December 2017

No cash to help dairy drive, says Taoiseach

Martin Ryan

Taoiseach Brian Cowen has ruled out the possibility of Government funding for the dairy sector drive to meet Food Harvest 2020 report targets.

The report has set a goal of increasing dairy output by 50pc over the next decade.

While the cost of such an expansion plan was put at €850m by Irish Dairy Board boss Kevin Lane, Mr Cowen said the State would not be in a position to fund the initiative.

The Taoiseach insisted that there would be no national support available for farmers or the processing sector to cushion the huge capital costs.

However, Mr Cowen told the conference that dairy farmers had the potential to become one of the cornerstones of recovery for the Irish economy.

"Dairy farming, being a native sector which is very important, and one of the most efficient parts of our agri sector, has a huge contribution to make to national recovery," Mr Cowen said. "The issue is that if we can close the gap between what we are spending and what we are taking in, that would reduce the cost of money for Ireland.

"You have already seen the contribution which the Government has made on on-farm schemes, both sheep and beef. We have prices this year which has enabled people to make a living and to reinvest.

"It is a question of trying to maintain prices for the primary producers and it is also about recognising that the agri business sector will respond."

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The Taoiseach pointed to the example of the prepared foods sector, which he said was now worth over €1bn in exports.

"We have a far more sophisticated food sector than we are given credit for, many of them leading multinationals, and they are prepared to invest in the future.

Irish Independent