The ICMSA is to highlight the estimated €800m drop in dairy incomes from 2014 as part of its election strategy.
The president of ICMSA, John Comer, said that the Government’s role on this particular issue had to move past that of spectator.
He said that a much more concerted effort had to be made at EU Commission level given the massive economic ‘knock-on’ that milk price had in our wider rural economy.
“The scale of the fall in dairy farmers’ incomes is illustrated very starkly if we take 2014 and note that dairy farmer incomes fell €530m in 2015 and we are now estimating a further fall of €280m from that 2014 base”, said Mr Comer.
“The Government and the EU Commission need to very quickly wake up to this reality and introduce measures that will stabilise the situation for the sector because dairy farmers across the EU are in exactly the same position”, he said.
He warned that many farmers will go to the wall unless action was taken and it was going to be particularly unfortunate to see many people that were encouraged to invest by the Government, milk processors and the banks on the back of milk quota abolition being ruined by a milk price that’s hopelessly below the cost of production.
He said this was coupled with an official attitude that was just wholly and demonstrably inadequate to the scale of the challenge.
Mr Comer further warned that the sector was heading into a “very dangerous period” and the Government and the EU Commission had a clear responsibility to ensure that family farms were some way protected and not abandoned to the whims of processors, retail corporations and huge multinationals who set the global market and operate to their own agenda.
“The attitude of the key policymakers seems to be one of keeping the head down and hoping the problem will magically go away,” he said.
The ICMSA president said that the reality was that dairy farmers will start 2016 producing milk well below the cost of production.
Unless necessary action was taken, it was likely to be doing so for the rest of this year, he said.
Mr Comer stated that the measures adopted following the EU Farm Council meeting last September 7 were now exposed as totally insufficient; the base milk price had continued to fall following the introduction of the new measures and no serious observer now thought they were going to be anywhere near enough to stabilise the situation.
Mr Comer said that what was needed was to see the Minister for Agriculture, working to gain sufficient support for additional measures at EU level.
Those measures, he said, must begin with raising the intervention price to a realistic level of at least 28cpl and the re-opening of the Russian market for EU dairy products.