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Utilise the benefits of discussion groups, says Coveney

- Dairy Efficiency Programme Enters its Third Year in 2012 -

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD, today urged those dairy farmers who have not yet been convinced of the benefits of discussion group membership to get involved, and to experience for themselves the difference it can make to their business and to their lifestyle.

Launching the third year of the Dairy Efficiency Programme, the Minister referred to the important role to be played by discussion groups in achieving greater on-farm efficiency and in achieving the Food Harvest 2020 target of a 50% increase in milk production by the end of the decade. The adoption of best practice in the management of their enterprises will also help dairy farmers to deal with milk price fluctuations, and to bring about improvements in motivation and in lifestyle through a shared learning experience.

"The focus for every dairy farmer at a time of great opportunity but also of increasing price volatility must be to reduce costs and to manage the dairy enterprise in a business-like fashion. Discussion group membership helps farmers to do this, not only by encouraging them to look at the way they do things, but also by helping them to learn from the experience of other farmers."

The Minister reinforced the potential financial benefits for dairy farmers by drawing their attention to the findings of a Teagasc research study carried out in 2010, which quantified the economic benefit of participating in a discussion group:

"Teagasc research has shown that membership of a discussion group has a direct and positive impact on dairy farm profitability, to the tune of between 1 and 2 cent per litre. This means that a milk producer with a quota of 300,000 litres can realise a benefit of between €3,000 and €6,000 from participating in a discussion group."

Reflecting on the first two years of the Dairy Efficiency Programme, the Minister noted that discussion group membership has more than doubled since the end of 2009. Of the 18,000 milk producers in the country, about 6,500 are currently in discussion groups. While rapid progress has been made recently, there is still room for further improvement.

"It is evident that discussion groups are an essential tool in helping the dairy sector to realise its potential over the next ten years and beyond. Nearly 6,500 dairy farmers have now taken that message on board and are seeing the benefits in real and practical terms on their farms and in their daily lives. I can only urge those who have not already done so to take advantage of the opportunity provided by the Dairy Efficiency Programme and get involved."

Commenting on his budget day announcement in relation to beef discussion groups, the Minister said that his Department is at present finalising the technical and administrative details, and that he hoped to be in a position to launch a programme early in the new year.

Concluding, the Minister said that full details of the 2012 Dairy Efficiency Programme will be available shortly from Co-ops and on the Department's website (www.agriculture.gov.ie) under "Dairy Farming/Dairy Efficiency Programme".

Date Released: 20 December 2011