IFA stages milk protest at Glanbia’s Ballitore plant

The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) held a protest outside the Glanbia plant in Ballitore last Tuesday, February 12, over growing concerns of the liquid milk market.

The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) held a protest outside the Glanbia plant in Ballitore last Tuesday, February 12, over growing concerns of the liquid milk market.

Speaking at the protest, IFA National Liquid Milk Chairman Teddy Cashman said it was the pressure of feed bills and other rising production costs which had pushed liquid milk producers to protest outside the country’s five main dairies.

“It’s very simple: we’re going broke supplying liquid milk,” he said.

Speaking to a crowd of more than 30 local farmers, Mr Cashman said to guarantee constant supplies of fresh, high-quality milk on supermarket shelves for consumers, liquid milk producers had to produce milk year-round.

“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,” he said.

“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”.

“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.

“Liquid milk producers are struggling to pay their winter feeding and energy bills. It is essential that dairies pay farmers a significant, and immediate, liquid milk price increase,” he concluded.

In a statement to the Leader, a Glanbia spokesperson said: “Glanbia Consumer Products recognises the high costs of milk production at farm level arising from the difficult weather conditions last year.

“However, Glanbia already pays the leading liquid milk price in Ireland. Realistic recovery of cost increases is a fundamental objective for any supplier to the retail trade, an objective which we no doubt share with our farmer suppliers.”

Planning permission was recently approved for an expansion of Glanbia’s plant in Ballitore.

- Lisa Deeney