Tipperary concerns over any threat to reduce milk supplies, but capacity is there
The country’s two main farm organisations have reacted to reports that dairy farmers may be faced with cutting milk supplies in the event of a co-op being closed due to Covid-19
Dairy Industry Ireland which represents the dairy processors, says the closure of one plant as a result of coronavirus could have a catastrophic impact on the sector, leaving milk uncollected and having to be disposed of on farms.
The Tipperary leaders of the ICMSA and IFA have both acknowledged the impact any closure would have on a sector that is heading for a record high level of production.
“There is no doubt that we are in unchartered territory in terms of Covid-19 and ICMSA does appreciate some of the concerns around capacity,” said ICMSA president Pat McCormack.
He said that obviously milk processors will need a plan to address any potential disruptions that may or may not arise.
From a farmer’s perspective, we need to actively be considering ways of helping on the capacity issue by, for example, reducing meals levels if that was appropriate to your farm, and continuing to feed late-born calves through the peak production period, he said.
“Like the general population, farmers are facing into two months of huge uncertainty and we need to be conscious that disruptions could happen unexpectedly,” said Mr McCormack.
The Tipperary Town farmer said that full co-operation needed to be forthcoming between all milk processors so that we can get through the peak milk production period relatively unscathed.
“I have no doubt that this will happen,” said Mr McCormack.
Meanwhile, IFA president Tim Cullinan said he had full confidence in our dairy co-ops to continue processing all milk during the COVID-19 crisis.
“Our dairy industry has been a real success story. The expansion since quotas were removed has been good for farm families, good for employment in the agri sector and good for rural Ireland,” he said.
The Toomevara farmer said that the reality was that our grass-based milk production system was seasonal and we were at maximum output in May.
“Our dairy co-ops have invested in the extra capacity to handle this. Talk of once a day milking is unhelpful and impractical,” he said.
Mr Cullinan said that it was obvious that the Covid-19 crisis posed some additional risks, but with proper co-operation and contingency planning between processors, and engagement with suppliers, it should be possible to manage.
“What we really need is an EU scheme to help co-ops across Europe to store processed product, known as Aids to Private Storage (APS), as there may be short term challenges in the market place where some markets are more difficult to access due to the Covid-19 crisis,” he said.
Mr Cullinan thanked all of those working in the processing sector, hauliers and all those in the supply chain for the work they were doing, including those in thte Department of Agriculture.
“I am confident that if we all work together, and with some support from the EU through APS, we will get through this,” he said.