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Smith to Continue To Pressure Commission For Stronger Action To Deal With Dairy Price Difficulties

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith TD, has reiterated his calls for stronger action by the Commission to deal with the current difficulties in the dairy market. Speaking ahead of next Monday's Council of Agriculture Ministers, at which the Commission's Dairy Market Report of 22 July will be discussed, the Minister said that while he acknowledged the action the Commission had taken to date in stabilising prices, much still needed to be done in order to deal with the income crisis being experienced on Irish dairy farms and on dairy farms throughout the EU.


"The dairy market continues to experience unprecedented difficulties and I share the concerns of milk producers at the severity of the current downturn. While the fall in prices has been arrested as a result of the Commissions deployment of market management measures in recent months, the current price level remains too low. I will therefore be pressing strongly for further action in the form of increased intervention prices and an increase in the scope and extent of export refunds, and that such measures be implemented immediately. I will also urge the Commission to put together a medium term strategy to deal with market volatility during the transition period leading to quota abolition, bearing in mind also that current measures may not be fit for purpose. I hope to obtain the support of other Member States for these efforts."


Immediately following the conclusion of the Council, Minister Smith will lead an Irish dairy industry delegation to Finland and Denmark for a three-day business development visit. The Minister will be accompanied on this trip by the Secretary General of the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Food and CEO's and senior management of seven of Ireland's largest dairy processors. The trip has been organised by Enterprise Ireland and senior executives from that organisation will also be joining the Minister.


"Research and development and innovation play a very important role in the dairy industry in the Nordic region and the visit is planned to gain an understanding of this role and how it has contributed to the successful development of the industry, and to learn from their experiences".


The Minister said that the visit will also explore the potential for partnership and collaboration opportunities between Irish and Nordic firms. To this end, the group will be visiting food research institutes including VTT and MTT in Finland, as well as some of the region's most innovative food companies such as Raisio, Valio and Arla.


Concluding, the Minister took the opportunity to emphasise that his work in the next week epitomises the key elements of his approach to the difficulties in the dairy sector, namely, dealing as effectively and as urgently as possible with short-term price difficulties while doing what we can to position the industry to take advantage of the positive longer-term prospects.

Date Released: 04 September 2009