Post-quota plan vital for dairy sector

Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

Ambitious proposals for growing milk production formed a key element of the Food Harvest 2020 report, which was published last week.

The 2020 strategy called for a 50pc hike in dairy output over the next decade, with the cost of expanding the industry's processing capacity to handle the additional 2.75bn litres of milk put at €400m.

However, the challenge of delivering these targets has been clearly highlighted by reports that processors just about coped with the volumes of milk they had to process during this year's peak supply at the end of May and early June.

Although companies were not forced to 'dump' supplies, milk had to be shunted from plant to plant and dairy to dairy as processors struggled to deal with the pressure.

Sending milk "on tour", as one senior industry source put it, or having to depend on additional storage capacity, confirms that serious restructuring and investment will be required if the industry is to meet the targets set out in the report.

Senior industry figures have admitted that there is a suspicion that the problem of seasonality in Irish milk supplies has worsened.

If this is the case, then it is a worrying development as it is generally accepted that the successful expansion of the milk pool will necessitate a more even distribution of supplies during the spring and autumn.

The fact that farmers were still feeding decent levels of meals through May obviously contributed to the surge in milk supplies, but it has still to be accepted that last month's difficulties highlighted the industry's limited capacity to deal with the current supply profile.

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ICMSA's Pat McCormack is right in his assessment that last month's problems should act as a "wake-up call" for the industry.

With additional milk supplies coming down the tracks as the EU abandons quotas, preparing in a coherent and planned manner for the changed circumstances will be vital.

Irish Independent

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