Farm Ireland

Sunday 18 March 2018

Under pressure farmers call for 'sharing of pain'

Arrabawn Co-op chief executive Conor Ryan.
Arrabawn Co-op chief executive Conor Ryan.

Martin Ryan

Pressure is mounting on co-ops to scrutinise all costs and bring in "cuts across the board", as farmer pressure heated up at the latest processor AGM.

There have been a series of vocal meetings around the country, and the latest saw farmers call for a "sharing of the pain" that they are experiencing in a fall-off in income with pay cuts demanded for management, board members and staff at the Arrabawn Co-op meeting in Co Tipperary.

Chief executive Conor Ryan admitted to the meeting that milk suppliers were "shocked" when they received their March milk cheques, with solids on the floor due to the poor weather.

He stressed the society was very conscious and sympathetic to the situation that many suppliers find themselves in.

"The next six to 12 months will be tough for the co-op. We will do all we can to ensure that farmers get the maximum support through this period," he said.

However, he warned the milk price has to "go down" and could hit 20c/l with the society taking a further 3c/l reduction and intervention for SMP returning 16-17c/l.

Mr Ryan pleaded with farmers to come in and let them know "what your situation is", after some of the vocal suppliers shouted out that they were "kicking" bills down the road and warned cashflow situations were reaching crisis point.

"The wages have gone up by 1pc and we have taken a reduction of 30pc - there has to be a better sharing of the pain or we won't be there," one farmer demanded. Another called for board members to forego remuneration, and fees to the society auditor to be reduced, and a request to see if there was any means by which the payment of the superlevy instalment for 2016 could be deferred.

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"Pay and salary cuts have to happen. If there are not cuts, we will be gone. Suppliers can't take any more cuts," another farmer said.

Mr Ryan defended the salary costs at the society which are "half what competitor societies are paying" and added that sometimes there is a feeling that the society is "too mean and too tight" with staff who earn every cent of what they are getting with the dedication they give.

The meeting was told that key management earned an average of €112,447 including pension and PRSI, while board members were paid an average of €6,174 including expenses.

The society paid an average of 30.4c/l in 2015 compared to 38.27c/l the previous year and processed a total of 311 million litres from their own suppliers, while returning a net profit of €2.1m compared to €4.4m in 2014 on turnover of €205m in 2015.

Meanwhile, Glanbia has refused to reveal the pay of senior staff in Glanbia Ingredients Ireland (GII) milk processor after the issue of senior management and board pay once again raised its head at the Glanbia society AGM. Glanbia has stressed that they have a strong governance structure in place.

Glanbia chairman Henry Corbally was paid €188,000 last year, and board members received €85,000 each. Previously, only the Plc remuneration amounts were made public, but it has now emerged that the directors received additional payments from the co-op and GII.

Indo Farming