Members of the Galway branch of the Irish Farmers Association (IFA ) staged a protest outside the Arrabawn milk processing plant in Kilconnell, Ballinasloe, on Tuesday to highlight the strains placed on liquid milk producers who are faced with increasing pressures of feed bills and other rising production costs.
The protest was just one of five similar protests taking place simultaneously at the country’s five main dairies. Speaking outside Arrabawn in Kilconnell the chairman of the Galway branch John Finn said: “It’s very simple. We’re going broke supplying liquid milk.”
Mr Finn explained that to guarantee constant supplies of fresh, high quality, milk on supermarket shelves for consumers, liquid milk producers have to produce milk year-round and that this involves substantially higher costs than those incurred by creamery milk suppliers, especially in the areas of feed and energy.
“While every dairy operates different milk pricing systems, all liquid milk producers today are producing milk for a price which does not cover our production costs. We need an annual average price of 40c/l to cover costs and pay a modest wage for our own labour, but our prices fall around 7c/l short of this break-even target.
“This means that the specialist liquid milk supplier producing 250,000 litres is losing €17,500 over a whole year’s milk supplies. This situation is totally unsustainable, and over a relatively short period of time will put the availability for consumers of locally-produced, fresh, high quality milk under threat.”
Mr Finn concluded: “To remunerate liquid milk producers fairly, dairies need to sell our milk harder and negotiate the equivalent of an additional eight per cent of the current average retail price to pass it back to us. This also means that retailers must take more responsibility for the sustainability of their supply sources, and this does not have to cost consumers whose household budgets are increasingly hard pressed.”