9 March 2001

Irish milk price peak

IRISH milk prices are showing the first signs of having peaked, after a year of sustained increases.

Golden Vale, the countrys fourth biggest operator, is the first buyer to signal a downturn, after its announcement of a 4p/gal (0.7p/litre) drop in its price for March milk to £1.04/gal (17.8p/litre).

This follows a Ir£100/t drop in the price paid by the Irish Dairy Board for skimmed milk powder to Ir£1800/t and the re-opening of butter intervention last January.

The move has been severely criticised by the Irish Farmers Association, which claims Golden Vale never passed on the full increase in its returns last year. "Commodity prices increased by 16p/gal last year," said milk adviser Catherine Lascurettes. "On average the dairies only paid 8p/gal more to producers. Golden Vale was one of the last to raise its values."

It was also unusual that Golden Vale should announce the cut so soon. Most other buyers will not set their March milk price until the first half of April.

The move follows a 10% increase in operating profits by Golden Vale in 2000 to k40m (£25m) on unchanged sales of k760m (£480m). &#42