Row continues over milk prices paid by Irish co-ops

‘Co-ops must send a clear signal to farmers that they will hold the milk price to year-end’

The row over milk prices paid by Irish co-ops to dairy farmers continues, with sector leaders demanding to know why payments are falling.

Tom Feelan, chair of the national dairy committee at the Irish Farmers Associatio, has called on co-ops to address farmers’ questions as to why are milk prices falling, and why have they fallen so much behind European levels.

“Is it because of Brexit, is it because of markets, is it because of supplies?” he asked. “Why is the gap between the purchase price index and the price co-ops pay farmers widening? Farmers need answers, they need to plan ahead.”

Mr Phelan said average EU dairy market returns, spots and futures have all been inching up in recent weeks, and gave the example of two large European co-ops – Friesland Campina and Arla – which are keeping prices steady.

“So why have Irish co-ops been cutting milk prices several times since the beginning of 2019?” he asked. “While overall milk price levels have eased over that period, European averages have clearly stabilised since March, yet Irish prices have continued to dip.”

He added: “Co-ops must send a clear signal to farmers that they will hold the milk price to year-end.”

Dairy co-ops blame uncertain product prices brought on by excess supply for the problems, with a Dairygold spokesperson saying: “Dairy markets have been challenging and uncertain, with butter returns falling significantly, far outweighing the marginal increases in powder prices.

“More recently, cheddar cheese returns have been negatively impacted, primarily due to the uncertainty over Brexit. Regrettably, a downward milk price adjustment is necessary.”

The spokesperson added: “Dairygold will continue to monitor market developments on a monthly basis and remains vigilant with regard to maximising the commercial return and ensuring operational efficiency.”

Ornua, another co-op which has been revising prices downward, also blames a fall in cheese and butter prices.