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"Optimism For The Future Of The Dairy Industry Is Key Conclusion From The National Dairy Forum" - Minister For Agriculture and Food, Mary Coughlan TD. Minister announces establishment of Dairy Consultative Committee

MINISTER ANNOUNCES ESTABLISHMENT OF DAIRY CONSULTATIVE COMMITTEE

The Minister for Agriculture and Food, Mary Coughlan TD, today hosted a National Dairy Forum in Dublin where she announced the establishment of a Dairy Consultative Committee to assist her in the evaluation of policy proposals in advance of next year's CAP Health Check. The Minister will shortly announce membership of the Consultative Committee.

The purpose of the Forum was to develop a shared understanding of the issues that are central to the continued growth and development of the Irish dairy sector and to consider the future of the sector, particularly in the light of evolving WTO negotiations and the CAP Health Check. The Minister said: "I am affording the sector as a whole the opportunity to contribute to an all inclusive industry-wide perspective on the future policy and growth strategy for the dairy industry." All key decision-makers in the sector were present and the Minister of State Trevor Sargent TD accompanied the Minister.

Speaking after the Forum, Minister Coughlan said that discussions were wide-ranging including the current market situation and the opportunities and challenges that sustained market buoyancy will bring. Discussions also included the WTO and CAP Health Check and, in particular, their implications for competitiveness at farm and factory level.

The Minister said there was a great sense of optimism amongst the participants about the future of the dairy sector and a great deal of confidence that current market buoyancy would continue for the foreseeable future. In this context, there was general agreement that the Irish dairy sector should take full advantage of the opportunities that will arise to expand market opportunities. In the light of forecast growth in world market demand, the sector needs to adopt appropriate marketing strategies that would best secure a growing share of international markets.

The general mood of confidence was tempered by concerns that complacency might prevent the sector reaching its full growth potential. In this regard issues relating to competitiveness at both farm and factory level were identified including the need to expand production and processing potential in order to meet the growing demand for dairy products in the EU and worldwide.

There was a shared view that any WTO agreement must be balanced and there should be parallel progress across all three pillars of the agriculture sector. The Forum agreed that the new draft proposals presented by the Chair of the Agriculture Committee were unacceptable in their present form.

On the Health Check, while accepting that this further review of the CAP may afford new opportunities for dairy quota expansion, the Minister said that she would have the implications of quota liberalisation carefully analysed in the coming months. In assessing the most favourable scenarios for short-term quota expansion, she will pay particular attention to the risk of disturbing current market buoyancy, and further, will insist that all market management tools remain in place for the foreseeable future.

Minister Coughlan said she hoped that "the period ahead and the decisions we take will have a lasting impact on the Irish dairy sector and this Forum has started a process that will result in the development of a policy framework to build on the success of the sector and enable the industry here in Ireland reach its maximum potential".

26 July 2007

Date Released: 26 July 2007