Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Agriculture Éamon Ó Cuív has said that dairy farmers are being crippled by falling milk prices and need urgent assistance from the Government.

Deputy Ó Cuív pointed out that Minister Coveney has encouraged huge investment in the diary sector following the end of milk quotas on the basis of strong dairy prices.

“Since coming to office Minister Coveney has been on a continuous PR offensive to encourage huge investment in the dairy sector based on his premature assumption that strong dairy prices would prevail. However the Minister has been found sorely lacking for having no contingency plan to deal with price volatility, something which I have warned of in the lead up to the abolishment of milk quotas.” said Deputy Ó Cuív.

“Over 17,000 Irish dairy farmers will be alarmed at the latest EU figures which indicate that the average milk price in May was 22 per cent lower than the same period last year. Everyone accepts a ‘perfect storm’ of falling prices due and volatility due to the Russian trade embargo, difficulties in the Chinese market and a high tax bill on 2014 profits all contributed to the current crisis.

“Market stability mechanisms are urgently needed at EU level to address the continued fall in milk prices. The current EU intervention level does not provide protection from extreme price changes and this must change. Minister Coveney needs to convince his European counterparts to introduce measures to ensure market stability. The essential floor for support should be increased from 20 cent to the cost of production per litre.

“I am also calling on Minister Coveney to intervene and remove the amount of skimmed milk pouder and butter off the European market as has been displaced by the Russian trade ban and ease the pressure caused by slowdown in the Chinese market.

“I have been telling the Minister over the past year to take a prudent approach in welcoming new entrants like young farmers into the sector and not over encourage people to borrow too much for rapid expansion. This has fallen on deaf ears.

“Minister Coveney’s legacy over the past 4 years is one of failing to get any reduction in fines and penalties, falling prices in sheep, beef and dairy, while failing to do more to tackle the power of processors and supermarkets in setting prices to farmers. Farmers, the primary producers, have been left short changed and will not be fooled by the further false promises that Minister Coveney makes between now and the election.