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Irish profit protests mirror EU milk supplier woes

By Neil Merrett , 24-Mar-2009

Irish farmer’s groups have added their voices to growing dissent among European milk suppliers, claiming that some producers in the country potentially face an entire year of financial loses unless regulations are reformed.

The Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA), a constituent organisation of lobby group, the European Milk Board, said that with farmers in the country thought to be producing milk effectively at a loss of €0.03 to €0.04 per litre, it was strongly against European policy on deregulation.

In reflecting its concerns over measures such as increasing European production quotas in milk, the ICMSA last week staged protests in Dublin mirroring what it says are grievances over farmers’ fears regarding retailer and regulatory pressures.

In the short-term

The Commission itself said back in January, that despite temporarily reinstating some protection measures like export refunds and intervention schemes to ensure farmer payouts, it remains committed to deregulating the market.

Agriculture commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel said at the time that, despite a shift away from support measures following reviews like the CAP Health check, the decision to reintroduce exports refunds for butter, cheese, whole and skimmer milk powders was a vital short-term intervention.

Cathal MacCarthy, press officer for the ICMSA, claimed that the Commission may have to further reconsider its position on deregulation as farmers from Ireland to Germany and France all suggesting milk production is unviable at the current price.

Mirroring recent comments from the EMB, the group said that farmers’ earnings were being further hit by financial investment required to bring their operations in line with European nitrate regulations and retailer pushes to cut product prices.

The ICMSA claimed that its member farmers being caught in the middle of these drives.

“We have the most regulation anywhere in the world at production level and the least for our products on the market,” stated MacCarthy.

Citing predictions from leading Irish suppliers such as Glanbia, MacCarthy said that Irish farmers might not see a turnaround in the current prices being paid for their milk into 2010.

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