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Co-ops Must Co-operate to Stop Milk Price Erosion

30 April 2009

IRELAND - The severe cut in the price paid to milk suppliers required an immediate and effective response from farmer owned milk processors including agreement on rationalising processing.

This was stated by Independent MEP Marian Harkin when she urged the co-operatives in the West and North East of Ireland to work together to create the efficiencies necessary to stop the erosion of milk prices above the Dublin/Galway line.

“The drastic reduction in milk prices may well be a reflection of international markets but it also emphasises the need to recognise that only the most efficient dairy industry will survive in the future”, she said. Farmers would not stay long in milk receiving a price which was below the cost of production, she said.

“For far too long the co-operatives in the West and North East have failed to take the logical and necessary steps towards joint processing of dairy ingredients while the number of liquid milk plants are an unnecessary extra cost which makes it difficult to compete with imported milk from Northern Ireland”, she said.

Some things were still under the control of farmers, through their co-op ownership of milk processing in the northern half of the country, and they should insist that the Boards of their cooperatives take the steps necessary to ensure the long-term prospects for dairy farming, she said.

“It is time to recognise that while the farmer owned co-ops provide a valuable multi-purpose service to members, they do not have the processing efficiency necessary to survive in increasingly competitive international markets for dairy products”, she said. There had been far too much talk about co-operation between co-ops and far too little action to date and this situation had to change if family dairy farming was to survive in the future”, Marian Harkin MEP said.

The EU also had a role to play in providing the measures which would ensure the ability of Europe’s and Ireland’s farmers to continue to produce quality dairy and food products, she said. The present flu pandemic is a fresh reminder that we need food security in the EU, we need to avoid dependence on food imports and we need to preserve family farming”, she said.

In addition to having existing EU support measures continued, Marian Harkin called on the Ministers for Enterprise and Agriculture & Food to press the EU to ease rules on State aid as an emergency measure to help Irish farming and the Irish food industry in a very difficult period. “There is also an EU globalisation fund which perhaps could be tweaked at a time when it is vital to stimulate trade in and out of Europe”, Marian Harkin MEP said.

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