Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Agriculture, Éamon Ó Cuív TD, has welcomed a commitment from the Northern Ireland Minister for Agriculture to look at the supply of liquid milk on the island of Ireland.
Michelle O’Neill MLA today attended the Oireachtas Agriculture committee and Deputy Ó Cuív raised the issue of ensuring the all year round supply of liquid milk.
Deputy Ó Cuív commented: “At present an ever increasing amount of the milk sold in the Republic comes from Northern Ireland with this amount growing from nothing in 1995 to 26% of supply now. Security of supply of winter milk has always been a major issue in this state and for that reason the state set up the National Milk Agency in 1994. This agency has representatives of the producers, distributors, processors, retailers and consumers on it.
“As the amount of milk coming onto supermarket shelves from the North increases the need for an all-Ireland approach to this issue becomes more important. Engagement between all parties North and South on this issue to ensure long term all year round supply is vital. A sudden shortage of milk in Britain could suddenly shift the balance of supply and consumers would rightly be critical if we did not take early action to prevent a shortage of liquid milk during winter in Ireland.”
In response to Deputy Ó Cuív, the Minister confirmed that she would take the question up with Minister Simon Coveney at the North South Ministerial Council meeting this week. She also responded positively to a suggestion made by Deputy Ó Cuív that a meeting be held between the National Milk Agency in the South and the relevant stakeholders in the North in the near future to discuss long term security of supply.
“There are less than 1,800 farmers in the Republic contracted to supply all year round milk. This is a decrease from 3,206 in 1995. If the number of farmers that are willing to enter all year round contracts to provide liquid milk continues to decline, the supply could easily dry up at times during the year.
“The total amount of liquid milk sold in the Republic each year amounts to nearly 600 million litres and securing this supply is vital. The financial returns from liquid milk have reduced significantly since 1995 with prices per litre now being only marginally higher to the farmer than they were in 1995. Meanwhile input prices have increased significantly. The farmer or producer’s share of the retail price has also reduced dramatically over the intervening years from 43% of retail price in 1995 to 32% in 2011.”
The Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture and Food has previously examined the issues of producer, processor, distribution and retailer relationships.
“The unwillingness of Dunnes Stores, unlike the other multiples to engage with the Oireachtas committee on Agriculture, which is examining the relationships between the various players in the production, processing and sale of Irish food in Ireland, was notable and regrettable. Their unwillingness to engage confirms the need for mandatory codes of practice to be introduced in Ireland and at the EU to ensure a level playing pitch between producers and retailers. I will work on this issue until an equitable solution to it is found,” Deputy Ó Cuív concluded.