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Minister Smith highlights the Importance of the Milk Quota Trading Scheme at Teagasc Dairy Conference in Cavan

Mr Brendan Smith T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food speaking today at the opening of the Teagasc National Dairy Conference 2006 in Ballyconnell reminded potential applicants under the Milk Quota Trading Scheme of the importance of submitting applications in good time, fully completed, and, in the case of buyers, accompanied by a cheque to the full value of the bid. Closing date for participation in the first scheme is Friday the 24th of November. Minister Smith reiterated the importance of participants in the scheme to "be realistic in their assessments of what they are prepared to pay or accept for quota as the Exchange will only arrive at a market clearing price where buyers' and sellers' expectations on price converge".

Minister Smith went on to identify the particular issues which he believed were key to maintaining a vibrant and competitive future for the Irish dairy sector. Specifically on the issue of EU market support measures, most particularly export refunds and internal aids and subsidies he said "every possible step has been taken at EU level to secure the best available range of internal aids and subsidies, and export refunds, in support of the sector". Commenting on the WTO Talks, Minister Smith said that his Department's determination at all stages of the negotiations was to find an agreement that is balanced and reasonable and one that would be capable of delivering an even playing pitch that allowed growing access to developed countries markets and for developing country partners, while maintaining a competitive base for home producers. Minister Smith believes that when "we next open formal dialogue on a WTO Agreement, the community will be stronger in having demonstrated its unity of purpose in sticking to its guns and defending the interests of the European model of agriculture". Referring to the Dairy Investment Scheme, which provides for €100 million to be allocated exclusively to investment in the Irish dairy processing sector, the Minister said that he fundamentally believes that this investment will give the sector a much needed confidence boost at this particular time and he hopes the dairy industry will take the opportunities presented by the Fund in an innovative and modern way.

In conclusion Minister Smith said that "any new vision for the Irish dairy industry must embrace action at both processor and producer levels, with the emphasis very firmly on improving efficiency and long-term competitiveness".

16 November, 2006

Date Released: 16 November 2006