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Doherty calls for fair prices for Dairy Farmers

24 June, 2009 - by Pearse Doherty TD

Speaking in the Seanad today Sinn Féin Senator Pearse Doherty called on the Minister for Agriculture to put pressure on the milk processors to pay dairy farmers a fair price. Senator Doherty said there is a risk that dairy farming could disappear from the West if the “appallingly low return for primary producers” is not adequately dealt with.

He said, “Very low price being paid to farmers for the milk they supply to the processors which at the current time amounts to on average around 20% of what consumers pay to the retailers. That is an appallingly low return to the primary producer and reflects a pattern that has been in place for a number of years now.

“As was pointed out in several of the submissions to my colleague Martin Ferris’ report to the Agriculture Committee, one of the reasons why farmers are being squeezed is the demise of the old co-operative system and it might well pay dividends, if you pardon the pun, for farmers to re-examine that issue in an attempt to retrieve power from the big companies which dominate the market.

“There is a strong demand from producers in the west that the quota be ring fenced to ensure that dairying does not disappear from many parts of the country, including my own county where it is already very weak. While it must be recognised that a certain minimum level of quota is necessary in order for a dairy farmer to be viable, it would not be socially or economically a good thing if dairying in the future was confined to a small number of very large producers.

“We also need to see action taken in order to reduce input costs for dairy producers. Again that was an issue raised in their submission by the Connacht Gold co-op who pointed to the added costs for both themselves and farmers by fuel prices in particular. Input costs were also by far the main negative factor that was highlighted in the survey by all farmers including dairy farmers.

“While we need to see the EU market introduce measures to support the prices paid to farmers, I would also call on the Minister to put pressure on the processors to pay the farmers a fair price, and to put an end to the constant downward pressure on the farm gate price which may be excused by the processors on the basis of their own costs but which ignores their huge profitability and the massive disparity between what is paid to the farmer and what is charged to the consumer in the shops.” ENDS

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