The dairy industry in Ireland is a huge driver in this economy and employs as many people outside the farm gate as it does inside the gate. Farming as an industry sees peaks and troughs and is at the mercy at times of international markets and geo political events.
I believe there is a growing case now for action at EU level to stabilise the milk prices, currently hovering around the mid 20cents a litre mark, down up to 30% since last year in some cases.
Farmers cannot sustain a 30% drop at a time when many have upped production and increased their output. There was a reasonable expectation that the ending of the quotas would be good for Irish dairy farmers and many of them positioned themselves to avail of greater access to new and expanding markets post quota.
This expansion was done on a phased basis in many cases, but the ban on imports in Russia coupled with less than anticipated demand from China, as well as falling prices, has created significant financial difficulties for many dairy farmers.
I believe that there is scope now for the EU to look at intervening at a level, say between 25-30cents a litre, so that some certainty and stability can come back into the market.
This would also help farmers in the coming months when they must make tax returns, and in many cases the first repayments on loans taken out to expand operations will be due.
While this volatility in the diary sector will hopefully be short term, it is vital that our dairy sector remains robust and strong to avail of the inevitable opportunities that will present when the markets settle.
I also want to see some flexibility given to farmers in the months ahead from their lenders and would call on banks and credit institutions to deal with farmers in an understanding way.