Some individual liquid milk farmers – those who produce milk for supermarket shelves – have called on the IFA Liquid Milk Committee to consider a widespread withdrawal of milk supplies over the coming months.
However, IFA Liquid Chairman John Finn said the organisation would prefer not go to that extreme if it can help it.
“We want to go through the communication process first before we even think of that.”
One liquid milk supplier who spoke at the IFA Liquid Milk Conference said he left liquid milk production as it simply did not pay for the extra work involved.
Peter Farrell, who farms in Meath with his father, and milks 190 cows said liquid milk farmers need around 40c/L annually to compensate for the extra expense and work involved.
However, Finn told FarmIreland.ie that while some farmers are calling for a ‘strike’, it’s not the answer the IFA is looking for.
“Liquid milk can’t be taken for granted. There are higher costs involved in producing this milk, as it’s year-round production. Liquid suppliers are getting around 39-41c/L at the moment for the winter months and their annual milk price works out around 31-31c/L.”
Liquid milk producers, he said, need at least 40c/L for the year and the IFA is looking for them to receive 55c/L for the winter months to balance out the extra costs incurred.
“We are looking for the retailers to engage with the processors to establish a new pricing system to ensure the returns are shared more evenly.
“We just want a better price share. Coke costs about 120/L and milk costs 92c/L. People take it for granted and don’t factor in the nutritional value of it. We need consumers to realise it is such a valuable product.”
The National Milk Agency, which regulates the supply of fresh milk for liquid consumption in Ireland, says that competition between supermarkets has pushed down the price Irish dairy farmers are receiving for their milk in recent years.
It estimates that the average litre of milk sells for 92c/L in shops, a drop of 1c/L on 2014 prices. Of that, liquid milk farmers received an average of 32c/L last year – down 16pc on 2014 prices.
The IFA Liquid Milk Chairman John Finn said many of the 1,725 liquid milk producers simply don’t have the available land to increase production on an annual basis, which would allow them to exit liquid milk production.
Irish Milk Market
Ireland has one of the highest per capita consumption rates of fresh drinking milk in the world – last year we drank 601m litres of milk, the highest consumption level on record.
Whole milk accounts for 59pc of fresh milk sales, while sales of low-fat and skimmed milk make up 41pc of sales. And we buy in bulk – some 75pc of fresh milk is sold in 2L cartons or larger.
Imports from Northern Ireland into the fresh milk market mean that one in every four litres of fresh milk consumed is milk from Northern Ireland.
The fresh milk market is the largest consumer market for milk and milk products in the State, with an estimated retail value of €547m in 2015.