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The inaugural Dairy Forum meeting was held on 29 September 2015 in the Department of Agriculture in Dublin.  The Forum was chaired by Minister Coveney and included a wide range of industry participants including the main farming organisations, the processing sector, Ornua, Bord Bia, Teagasc, Enterprise Ireland, ICBF, Animal Health Ireland, the Environmental Protection Agency and the banks.

The ICOS delegation included Martin Keane, ICOS President and Jerry Long, ICOS Dairy Committee Chairman, with executives TJ Flanagan and Eamonn Farrell also in attendance.

The meeting discussed the current difficulties in international dairy markets, measures to address volatility and the Commission support package.

At the meeting, ICOS strongly emphasised that a combination of measures or a suite of options were needed to address volatility before the next downturn, including:

  1. More focused EU support tools
  2. A functioning European Dairy Futures Market
  3. Greater availability and uptake of fixed price schemes
  4. A national income deferral scheme

In addition, ICOS pointed out that next Spring will be a challenging period for dairy farmers, as cash flow will begin to tighten. While welcoming the recent Commission aid package, ICOS noted that the aid allocated to Ireland represented a mere 3% of the revenue loss suffered by farmers this year. In addition, the allocation to Ireland is less than a quarter of the support afforded to farmers by their co-ops, which ICOS estimate will total €100 million.

More broadly, the provision of aid as opposed to increasing intervention thresholds has demonstrated Europe’s unwillingness to intervene in markets. As a result, a more strategic approach is required to protect dairy farmers from future volatility.

The work of the Dairy Forum will focus on fixed price / margin contracts, future markets, the development of new markets and added value products and the provision of tool kits by banks to ease cash flow concerns.

By Eamonn Farrell

Agri & Food Policy Executive