Farm Ireland

Monday 18 December 2017

Treaty to end 'milk wars' is on the cards

Belgian dairy farmers block access to a milk processing plant in Bethane during a protest at low milk prices. Photo: Reuters
Belgian dairy farmers block access to a milk processing plant in Bethane during a protest at low milk prices. Photo: Reuters
Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

A deal between dairy processors to end the so-called milk wars is on the cards following weeks of negotiations steered by ICOS.

It comes following a period that has seen close to 100 dairy farmers switch processor, but things came to a head in recent weeks following the move by some farmers back to their original milk purchaser. Dairygold is believed to be one of the main advocates of the initiative.

While officials from ICOS and the dairy processors declined to comment, it is believed that agreement is close on a new rule that would require farmers to give three months notice to their existing processor before switching to a new purchaser.

The new protocol is expected to be a short document, that complies with all competition authority requirements.

However, sources stressed that nothing was over the line, with the talks at a "very delicate stage", with the changes by suppliers over the last year having created "a lot of hurt on all sides".

Meanwhile, Irish output continues to power ahead, despite the worsening outlook for milk prices over the next six to 12 months.

The 13pc surge in June is set to be replicated in July, with the main processors' supplies continuing unabated.

Glanbia was up 17pc, while Dairygold recorded a 13-14pc jump for the month compared to July 2014. Kerry was up 6pc, with Town of Monaghan also up 8pc.

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The cooler temperatures and higher than average rainfall did not affect grass growth significantly, and milk solids have remained steady.

Meanwhile, mass protests by dairy farmers furious with the on-going fall in milk prices continued in France and Belgium last week.

Farm lobby groups across the Continent are planning a major campaign in early September to recoup some of the €800m in superlevy fines.

Meat exports

The protests also have implications for Irish meat exports, with Meat Industry Ireland (MII) warning that a number of French customers cancelled orders of Irish meat following the farmer blockades and the French Government's instruction all public institutions purchase only French produce.

"It is now time for the EU Commission to remind the French Authorities of their obligation to respect the rules of the EU internal market," said MII's Joe Ryan.

Over 42pc or €90m worth of Irish sheepmeat is exported to France each year.

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