The Department of Agriculture has no proposals in place for the re-introduction of quotas or limits on dairy production, the Minister for Agriculture, Charlie McConalogue has said.
In a statement today, after a meeting last night of the Dairy Vision Group, the Minister – who does not partake in the meetings – said that “while nothing is off the table, similarly, there are absolutely no concrete proposals already defined by the Department.”
It’s understood that at last night’s meeting a presentation was made that outlined possible measures around the restriction of cow numbers or milk volumes.
“It is certainly not the case that my Department has any proposals for the re-introduction of quotas or limits on dairy production. There is no predetermined outcome involved and I have tasked the Committee with reflecting on the challenges facing the sector and reporting to me when they have considered all options.
“While nothing is off the table, similarly, there are absolutely no concrete proposals already defined by the Department. This is an industry-led group made up of those who make up our critically important dairy sector; farmers, co-ops, processors, Department officials and scientists led by a committed and skilled chair in Prof Gerry Boyle. I trust this committee with bringing forward a complete and well-thought-out options paper in due course.”
However, farm organisations reacted angrily after the meeting.
“I want to be very clear, IFA will not accept the imposition of a quota of any kind on any sector,” said The IFA President Tim Cullinan.
“Over the weekend, we had the Minister calling for a ‘war-time effort’ to produce more food. Now he wants to limit production. It’s a complete contradiction,” he said.
“What the Department has put forward has no legal basis. IFA will challenge any attempt by the Government to impose a quota on our sector,” he said.
“The previous quota system was an EU-wide regime. Any attempt to impose a quota in Ireland would not be consistent with the principle of the Common EU market.”
He said the Minister must now come clean and outline when the Department’s modelling was done and when they arrived at their preferred option of a quota on the volume of milk produced.
ICMSA President Pat McCormack said there are “no circumstances” in which ICMSA will agree to a cap on the volume of milk produced in Ireland.
He said that the whole multi-billion euro sector was relying on the recent comments of both Professor Boyle and Tanaiste Varadkar confirming that no such restrictions were being considered, but that these comments ran directly counter to the proposals made by the Department at yesterday’s meeting.
“It is baffling to think that the Department are considering reintroducing quotas that will slow generational renewal even further, halt efficiency gains in the sector and leave farm families in vulnerable positions,” said John Keane, Macra National President.
“This air of uncertainty needs clarification, since the news broke on the modelling done by the Department of Agriculture, countless farmers have contacted me worried about their future, their investment, and their family’s financial stability. The Minister must move to reassure these families that volume caps or herd restrictions will not be implemented or forced upon Irish farm families in any sector,” he said.
“With global demand growth for dairy products, it must be asked who has the Department of Agriculture identified as being better at producing sustainable dairy produce than Irish farm families?”.