North and east Cork farmers angry at local milk price gap

Anger is rising among farmers in north and east Cork who says their co-ops are paying them less for their milk than their West Cork neighbours’ co-ops. The North & East Cork ICMSA executive says its members are angry that Dairygold, Glanbia and Kerry have consistently paid them less than the West Cork co-ops during the ongoing milk price crisis.

The main West Cork co-ops are Bandon, Barryroe, Drinagh and Lisavaird, who sell their supply to Carbery.

“The reality for most farmers-suppliers in north and east Cork is that they are looking at farmers in West Cork and Boherbue who have been getting a price over or close to 25c per litre throughout the peak production period which is significantly higher than that paid by the three largest processors in the region, Dairygold, Glanbia and Kerry,” said Julian O’Keeffe, chairman of North & East Cork ICMSA executive.

“That price gap during this period represents a very significant loss for these farmers; while we acknowledged the fact that Dairygold and Glanbia increased their July milk price, the decision of Kerry not to do so is very disappointing and needs to be addressed.

“Kerry gave a commitment to pay the leading milk price and their suppliers expect that that will be delivered.”

Mr O’Keeffe, a farmer in Meelin, north Cork, said that milk prices were poor and well below the costs of production anyway, but the situation faced by suppliers in north Cork was compounded by receiving prices that were worse than they needed to be.

The ICMSA says markets are recovering and the Voluntary Production-Reduction Scheme is helping. But the north and east Cork farmers say they need to see these returns immediately as they are under critical financial pressures right now.

ICMSA says the Ornua Purchasing Price Index confirms its own calculations that their co-op did not pay the market price during the peak period. And their attempts to highlight this price gap with their processors have been frustrating.

“Farmers are sick of listening to certain co-ops stating that better-paying rivals are cross-subsidising milk price when we can see for ourselves that in most cases those paying the best prices actually don’t have other ancillary businesses out of which they could cross-subsidise their milk price,” said Julian O’Keeffe.

A gap in milk prices at any stage is a major issue for farmer-suppliers but when prices are as low as they have been, then the impact of such gaps becomes even greater and this has to be addressed, said Mr O’Keeffe.

“North and east Cork farmers have been underpaid and that’s a simple demonstrable fact.

“What’s also a fact is that the production-reduction scheme gives us an option and if the co-ops in question don’t start paying what the markets shows they should be paying, then their suppliers just won’t produce the milk. It’s that simple,” he said.
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