The Minister of Agriculture, Food & the Marine was told bluntly at yesterday’s ICMSA National Council meeting that that farmers now suspected that Ireland had no plan or policy on the damage resulting from collapsed milk price with certain speakers going further and claiming that his Department supported a status quo that was working for the wider dairy sector while inflicting income wipe-out on the dairy farmer foundation.
Council Members listened respectfully to Minister Creed arguing that increased storage options for, particularly, SMP would have an effect and the possibility of a further direct aid package being made available but the Q and A that followed the Minister’s speech emphasised the absolute disillusionment with both the Government and Commission’s attitude and response to the milk price slump that has now seen farmers put down a full year receiving a price below the accepted cost of production – with some farmers currently receiving a base price of up to nine cents per litre below what it costs to produce that volume.
ICMSA President, John Comer, summed up the level of discontent and anger when he urged the Minister to consider again the possibility of supporting a EU wide voluntary production reduction scheme that would subsidise on a cents per litre basis a voluntary cut in individual farmer’s production on a 2015 to 2016 basis with the clear proviso that those farmer who wish to expand can continue to do so. This proposal is on the table at EU level and with EU funding can play a key role in returning milk prices to a realistic level. Mr Comer said that it was utterly pointless to pretend that there was not a supply –demand imbalance that had to necessitate some measures aimed at taking supply out of the chain until it fell into some equivalence with demand. That has to happen, insisted Mr Comer, and delaying confronting that reality was merely to delay the inevitable.
Support was growing right across the EU for such a scheme with various organisations urging the Commission to provide voluntary incentives for reduced production and end the ‘tinkering’ represented by adjustments in storage volumes. Speaker after speaker told the Minister that after a full year of virtually no income from their milk operations, they were at their wit’s end.
In answer to Minister Creed’s repeated insistence that he didn’t have a ‘Silver Bullet, the farmers told the Minister that they wanted – and were entitled to expect – that at least he would support initiatives like the voluntary supply reduction scheme or other initiatives that will quickly lead to increased milk prices , concluded Mr. Comer.
Ends 24 June 2016.
John Comer, 087-2057846
Cathal MacCarthy, 087-6168758