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MAY 2019
Dairy overview
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, o ers an overview of the dairy sector
and points to the current challenges
The Irish dairy sector is one of our most important
indigenous sectors in Ireland, with CSO statistics showing
dairy exports in excess of 4.5 billion in 2018 to over 140
countries. Irish milk production in 2018 exceeded 7.5
billion litres, an increase of 4.3 per cent compared with
2017. CSO trade figures for 2018 indicate a slight decline
in value (2.3 per cent), but a 5 per cent growth in the
volume of dairy exports compared to 2017.
Reflecting briefly on the challenge posed by weather
events in 2018, these highlight the importance of ensuring
our individual farm businesses are robust enough to
deal with unforeseen events. The favourable weather
conditions in the autumn of 2018, together with the
Fodder Production Incentive for Tillage farmers which I
introduced in August enabled livestock farmers, including
dairy farmers, to build up depleted fodder stocks and
to enjoy a favourable surge in milk production in late
2018. Going forward I would like to see collaborative
arrangements such as this between dairy farmers and
tillage farmers to help future proof the industry.
Looking to the wider picture, Brexit has of course
dominated almost everything else these last few months.
All members of the Government have been and will
continue to work tirelessly to avoid the possibility of a
no-Deal Brexit. I have worked to sensitise my fellow EU
Ministers to the negative impact such a scenario would
have for Ireland, but also on agri-food markets across the
EU. Looking at the impact of Brexit on dairying, according
to 2018 CSO data some 22 per cent of all dairy exports (by
value) went to the UK, and some 85-90 per cent of dairy
imports (by volume) came from the UK. This reflects
the highly integrated nature of trade in the dairy sector.
There can be no doubt that a no-Deal Brexit would pose
a significant threat to this mutually beneficial trading
We must also acknowledge some of the other significant
issues which will influence the dairy sector in the
coming years. Our obligation to ensure that we farm in
an environmentally efficient manner will come under
focus continually going into the future. A collaborative
approach to meeting our environmental obligations
is, I believe, the best way forward. Initiatives such
as the National Dairy Sustainability Initiative and
the Agricultural Sustainability Support and Advisory
Programme (ASSAP) are two examples of how actors
in the industry can work together, and I would urge all
bodies in the dairy sector to support these initiatives.
The increasing size of the national dairy herd that has
coincided with the removal of milk quotas has also put
pressure on scarce resources such as labour and facilities
on some farms. In this context, I would urge all farmers to
engage with their advisors and peers to ensure that animal
welfare and on-farm health and safety is at the core of all
your everyday working lives.
I have to also acknowledge the enormous potential for
the dairy herd over the next few years, thanks to the high
standards of our dairy farmers. Ireland is a global leader
in the dairy sector in terms of the safety, sustainability
and traceability of our dairy production on family farms,
of our processing in facilities that range from global
household names to niche cottage industries, and on
our justified and hard-earned reputation for quality.
The quality of Irish sourced milk is a key competitive
advantage in our promotional efforts. It is of course vital
that our presence in markets across the world is reflected
in the price paid to our primary producers.
There are approximately 18,000 dairy farmers in Ireland
who, down through generations, continuously improve
standards in the industry and in their communities. It is
this foundation stone of family farms that have allowed
more than 85 per cent of Irish dairy production to be
exported throughout the world and in general there are
few restrictions on our dairy produce exports. In 2019,I
will be undertaking a number of trade missions including
China in May, Japan and South Korea in June, Algeria
and Egypt in November, following my trade mission to
Turkey last month. These trade missions are a vital part of
increasing Ireland's global footprint and I hope will help to
further develop our industry in the coming years, through
having access to markets with an increasing demand for
dairy products which Irish dairying is, in my view, uniquely
placed to meet.
MAY 2019