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Gildernew addresses Cross-Border Dairy Conference

18 October, 2007


Sinn Féin Agriculture Minister, Michelle Gildernew MP MLA, has addressed a Cross Border Conference on the Future of the Dairy Industry at Glencarn Hotel, Castleblaney.

The conference was convened in light of the changing landscape of Irish Agriculture and the increasing globalisation of dairy markets.

Speaking at the conference the Minister said:

"The milk production and processing sector in the North makes a major contribution to the local economy. It is also a very progressive industry, having invested heavily in pursuit of a sustainable future. Dairy farmers in the North have much to be proud of and a solid foundation has been laid for the future."

Referring to current dairy prices, the Minister said:

"The industry is currently enjoying the fruits of buoyant world markets. Nevertheless we live in the real world and markets will continue to fluctuate. Whatever comes, I believe that our industry will rise to the challenge of a market-led approach and I would encourage them to focus on the marketing of higher added value and differentiated products."

Ms Gildernew said that she believed that higher input costs should be recognised by retailers and that she wanted to maintain a productive dialogue with the retailers on these issues.

The Minister referred to anticipated proposals in the forthcoming EU Health Check and said that she shared the Commissioner's desire for a 'soft landing' for the dairy sector, allowing them to plan for when milk quotas end in 2015. She also assured those present that she would work closely with stakeholders to establish the way forward.

In conclusion, Ms Gildernew referred to her priority of establishing an All-island Animal Health and Welfare Strategy:

"I will be meeting with Mary Coughlan shortly to discuss how we can move quickly to develop the Strategy. I plan to raise the possibility of an All-island consultative forum to take the Strategy forward."

NOTES TO EDITORS:

Other guest speakers included Mary Coughlan TD, the Minister for Agriculture and Food in the South, the Presidents of the Irish Farmers' Association and the Ulster Farmers' Union and two MEPs.

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