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16 February 2009: New investment, additional quota and innovation are at the heart of the Irish dairy industry - Smith

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith TD, said that new investment, additional quota and innovation were at the heart of the Irish dairy industry and would drive it on to greater success in the future. Speaking at the ICMSA Conference ¿Securing the Future of the Dairy Sector¿ in Cavan tonight, the Minister said that ¿the Irish dairy industry is well-equipped to take advantage of the long-term positive outlook for dairy markets and Irish producers have the potential to significantly increase milk production in the short-term¿. Long-term growth in prosperity in developing countries and in Asia, as well as increasing population trends, will create new and viable market opportunities for Irish exporters.

Minister Smith said: ¿The Government is investing significantly in the dairy processing industry to ensure that it has the capacity and technical capability to process the increased production that I secured as part of last November's Health Check negotiations. The decision by the Government to provide €114 million in the Dairy Investment Fund was a huge vote of confidence in the long-term future of the sector.¿ Three of these investment grants were allocated to processors in the Border region - two to Lakelands and one to Town of Monaghan. ¿This is further evidence that dairy production has a healthy future in this area,¿ said Smith.

Referring to the current turbulence in international dairy markets Minister Smith said: ¿While markets are facing short-term uncertainty, analysis shows that the long-term outlook is bright.¿ The main international forecasting organisations predict global growth in wealth and population in the medium term. ¿This will present new opportunities for quality producers like Ireland, and all areas of the dairy sector can expect to reap the rewards.¿

In the meantime the Minister welcomed the recent reinstatement of export refunds for butter, skimmed milk powder, whole milk powder and cheeses, and the opening of private storage aid for butter. While these measures had not yet provided the level of stimulus required in the market, Minister Smith said that ¿given time and further adjustments in the level of support, which my officials will be seeking in Brussels later this week, I am confident that the scope of these market measures would, together with supply side adjustments, prove instrumental in restoring balance to the market and reverse the current market difficulties¿.

Date Released: 16 February 2009