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Minister Smith affirms the Government's commitment to ensuring that the Irish Dairy Sector reaches its full potential

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith TD, said that he is working closely with the European Commission and his colleagues in other EU Member States to ensure the maximum possible support for Irish dairy farmers.  The Minister was speaking at the Lakeland Dairies Milk Quality Awards in Virginia, Co. Cavan.

He added that the problems in the milk market are international in nature and require co-ordinated and effective action at EU level.  The Minister also spoke of the serious challenges presently facing the international dairy industry. Weak markets for dairy product was primarily due to a collapse in demand caused by the global economic downturn. "My efforts to convince the Commission to use all the available market instruments to support the sector had proved successful, as there is now a continued commitment to keep intervention open for butter and skimmed milk powder until August 2011. It is important too to remember that the medium term prospects for global dairy markets are generally favourable.  Growth in wealth and population is forecast to stimulate strong levels of demand for dairy products and returns will improve to all parts of the sector.  The Government is committed to ensuring that the Irish dairy sector reaches its full potential".

Minister Smith said that there had been "an unprecedented mobilisation of the range of important market supports and, while prices remain low, there are, for the first time, some tangible signs of improvements, with Irish butter and skimmed milk prices now above intervention levels and, even at these levels, I fully appreciate that returns to farmers are unsustainably low."

Minister Smith said that "milk was the main issue on the agenda at last week's meeting with the French Minister in Paris.  The bilateral meeting was extremely useful in advance of the special Meeting of Agriculture Ministers on milk now scheduled for 5th October in Brussels."

The Minister emphasised the importance of the dairy sector to the national economy and acknowledged Lakeland Dairies significant contribution to the sector as both an important outlet for dairy farm produce and the provider of valuable and rewarding employment in the Northeast region.  He commended Lakeland Dairies for organising the Milk Quality Awards competition and for their continued commitment to quality, which is underpinned by the Lakeland suppliers. The Minister publicly recognised the achievements of these suppliers  for their commitment to efficiency and quality in all aspects of milk production.

Date Released: 29 September 2009