Walsh Paves Way Forward to Dairy Sector

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Byline: DAVID McCOY

MINISTER for Agriculture and Food, Joe Walsh, yesterday focussed on the way forward for the Irish dairy sector following the completion of the Mid Term CAP Reform.

Speaking at the European Dairy Association World Dairy Forum in Cork, the Minister said that, with the perspective of the CAP now clear for a number of years, it was time to move on with a greater sense of confidence in what had been an extremely effective policy for agriculture and in particular for the dairy sector over the years.

"Most of you will be aware of the journey taken by the EU dairy regime over the years. It has come through budgetary pressures, unacceptably high intervention stocks of butter and milk powder, the introduction and bedding down of a milk quota system and now the introduction of direct payments,'' he said.

"While the policy has evolved over the years, so too has the industry. The EU dairy industry is one of the fundamental aspects of traditional European agriculture. By definition, it is labour intensive and has always contributed to the maintenance of rural areas by providing regular income to family farms. The processing arms of the industry have also contributed to regional and rural development given the location of large employers close to the production areas.''

As regards the Irish dairy sector, Mr Walsh pointed out that Prospectus Consultants had identified certain areas for the industry which required attention, and, at farm level also, there was plenty of scope to reduce costs and to increase the value of output.

The Minister said that one area of on-farm production in which Ireland needed to improve was the composition of its milk output. "Now that quotas will remain in place for the coming 10 years or so, Irish farmers must think in terms of efficiency and value of output. In this context, the composition of milk in terms of valuable constituents is most important. Maybe it is time to start measuring milk output in terms of kilograms of solids rather than in gallons or litres or percent fat or protein. …