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Minister Stresses Crucial Role of Co-Operatives

At the national conference of the Irish Co-operative Organisations Society (ICOS), Brendan Smith TD, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food spoke of the crucial role of Co-operatives in Ireland in the fabric of our agri-food industry and in rural society. 

He stated that the theme of their discussions this year "Dairy expansion - achieving profitable growth" was a particularly relevant topic in view of the recent recommendations of Food Harvest 2020, with a view to the expansion and development of the Agri Food Sector over the next decade.

Emphasising the pivotal role that the dairy sector will play in the delivery of the ambitious but achievable growth targets in the Report, the Minister said: "the ending of milk quotas in 2015 represents an exceptional opportunity to increase our milk output and Food Harvest 2020 has targeted a 50% increase in milk production in the next decade which I believe is achievable".

The Minister also pointed to the challenges which lay ahead: "This is not just about increasing milk production.  It is critically important that the stakeholders in the sector act in a coherent way to increase efficiency and reduce costs both at farm level and at processor level, that processors adopt the most cost effective model to process the additional milk supplies, that new markets are found for the additional milk production,  that there is an increased focus on research and innovative product development in order to add value in markets in which we already have a strong foothold."

The Minister said that the challenge in this area is primarily one for the industry. The recently established Dairy Expansion Activation Group under the chairmanship of Dr Sean Brady will assist the process in identifying the points on the roadmap and the issues to be addressed on the expansion journey.

"I have recently established a small group comprising farmers , processors and the relevant state agencies, with focus on the practical measures needed to implement the recommendations of the Food Harvest 2020 report. I am confident that with the assistance of all of the stakeholders, this group can make a significant contribution to the development of the dairy sector in Ireland over the next decade".

Concluding, the Minister said: "It is clear that prospects over the medium to long term are positive, given anticipated developments in world population and economic growth.  The dairy sector in Ireland must position itself to exploit the opportunities arising from these developments, and I am confident that ICOS can continue to play a leadership role in that regard."  

Date Released: 21 October 2010