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Smith urges Council to continue to support the Dairy Sector

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Brendan Smith TD, continued to press for Community solidarity and support for the dairy sector during the current market difficulties. Speaking in Brussels at the Council of Agriculture and Fisheries Ministers, he said, "The unprecedented situation that we are facing has put an enormous burden on the milk sector and we have seen a slump in demand as a consequence of the considerable reduction from historically high prices in 2007 and the more recent credit crunch".

While acknowledging the initiatives taken so far, Minister Smith said: "It is clear to me that the elements that will lead to recovery are competitive refunds that allow the sale of dairy products onto world markets in considerable quantities and the continuation of intervention at attractive rates".

These were precisely the demands the Minister made when he met Commissioner Fisher Boel in Brussels on 11th March. "At that meeting I pressed two priorities - the continued intervention of high volumes of butter at the intervention price and a more aggressive application of export refunds in order to move greater quantities permanently into export markets". Minister Smith said he was glad that the Commissioner responded so quickly to these demands in the actions taken at the Management Committee meeting last Thursday.

At that meeting a total of 6,665 tonnes of butter was accepted into intervention at prices very close to the intervention price.  "This was an extremely positive response to my direct request to the Commissioner", said the Minister. In respect of export refunds, some 5,257 tonnes of butter and 14,663 tonnes of skimmed milk powder respectively were supported with refunds. These represented much higher volumes than were accepted previously. On this occasion the volume supported with export refunds were almost equivalent to the combined volumes at the three previous tenders. "This was a considerable improvement and should help bring much needed stability to the market", according to Minister Smith.

Minister Smith reminded the Council that Ireland is entering a period of abundant supplies and the levels at which refunds and intervention function will be critical to the speed at which it emerges from the current slump. "I am encouraged by recent developments in community support and I believe that we have made some progress in the past few weeks in steering the market towards the correct trajectory". However, he said, there remained room for considerable improvement and that the Commission¿s role in managing the market was "crucial to our industry at all levels continuing to do sustainable business and build for the future".

23 March 2009

Date Released: 25 March 2009