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01 October 2007: Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Mary Coughlan TD, delivers keynote address to the World Dairy Summit

Coughlan defends EU interests in Trade Talks

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Mary Coughlan TD, delivered the keynote address at the World Dairy Summit organised by the International Dairy Federation in Dublin today.

Welcoming more than 900 delegates from across the globe the Minister said: "We are united by a common interest in dairying, in our commitment and dedication to the growth and development of the dairy sector in all regions of the world".

She praised the innovation and technological developments that had taken place in the industry both here in Ireland and at international level.

"Our consumers benefit from the vast array of dairy products that are being developed in every corner of the world and we marvel in our respective innovations and we all share in the wider benefits that they bring to our industry."

It has been 36 years since the IDF last held its annual Summit in Ireland and Minister Coughlan welcomed the resurgence in agriculture commodities, driven by wider economic and ecological issues that have impacted greatly on this transformation, most particularly the huge bounce in prices for dairy products in international markets. "We now have international circumstances that, for the first time in a very considerable period, afford the opportunity for the dairy sector to respond to a sharp rise in global demand."

It was for this reason that the Minister called on the EU Commission at the Council of Agriculture Ministers last week to propose measures to relax the restrictions on quota expansion. She continued: "I was anxious to ensure that EU and Irish farmers would not be left behind in the scramble to share in the gains that are being brought about by current market buoyancy."

The Minister said that the type of structural limitations on higher milk output that exist elsewhere do not exist in Ireland and increasing quotas by 3% now was a better response to current levels of demand rather than a free-for-all dismantling of the quota regime in the short term.

It was for this reason that the Minister called on the EU Commission at the Council of Agriculture Ministers last week to propose measures to relax the restrictions on quota expansion. She continued: "I was anxious to ensure that EU and Irish farmers would not be left behind in the scramble to share in the gains that are being brought about by current market buoyancy."

The Minister said that the type of structural limitations on higher milk output that exist elsewhere do not exist in Ireland and increasing quotas by 3% now was a better response to current levels of demand rather than a free-for-all dismantling of the quota regime in the short term.

The Minister also touched on the issue of food security, as being "of fundamental concern to every nation and every region of the world" and reminded delegates that issues relating to economic development, ecological change and bio-security can change the landscape very quickly and leave those who thought less of their agriculture sector most exposed to the effects of events falling outside of their control.

Praising the Irish dairy sector, Minister Coughlan said: "Our industry at producer and processor levels has responded to every challenge and the breadth and depth of dairy products and ingredients now available is quite staggering."

Applying the science in dairy ingredient solutions has been central to this success.

The Minister also referred to the WTO and made clear her view that the "EU would not quietly retreat from food markets and open its markets to unbridled access at preferential rates while our competitors cherry-pick the lucrative elements."

She went on to say that she supported the completion of the Doha Development Round of world trade negotiations but would not accept "that unfettered access to a particular market should be allowed without reciprocal access to all other markets in developed economies."

Concluding her keynote address, Minister Coughlan referred to the evolving changes that are taking place in dairying and encouraged the sector to continue on the path of developing new products as the source of growth and profit. "There are no limits to innovation and scientific advancement and I believe that such qualities and attributes are available in abundance in the dairy sector."

1 October 2007

Date Released: 01 October 2007