28 February 1997

Irish dairymen braced for big cuts

UK DAIRY farmers are not alone in having to face falling milk prices.

Leading Irish co-ops have all announced cuts in their producer payments this month, costing the average producer about £50 a week.

Dairygold and Kerry have been the most aggressive, taking 10% off their prices for January deliveries to 100.8p/gal (22.17p/litre) and 100p/gal (21.99p/litre), respectively. This is for milk of 3.3% protein and 3.6% fat in top hygeine bands.

Waterford has cut its price by 9p, Golden Vale by 8p, while Avonmore has restricted itself to a more modest 3p reduction.

Producer representatives at the Irish Farmers Association have condemned the co-ops, especially those imposing the deepest cuts. "We always recognised the market for dairy products has fallen since 1995 and that strong currency has been a major problem, both in terms of the green punt revaluations and the lack of competitiveness abroad," said IFA milk executive secretary, Catherine Lasc-uretts. "But it is galling that such severe cuts should be imposed at a time when most of the markets we sell to are now improving. They will lead to a hefty reduction in farmer incomes."

The IFA is now pressing for the national government to pay compensation for loss of earnings arising from the green punt revaluations since November. Brussels has already sanctioned aid to Ireland of Ir£50m, of which dairy farmers can expect 2p/gal (0.44p/litre). This should be matched by national funding, says Ms Lascuretts. &#42