Dairy markets are stable says Limerick chair of ICMSA dairy committee 

Donal O'Regan


Donal O'Regan

ICMSA dairy committee chairperson, Gerald Quain

ICMSA dairy committee chairperson, Gerald Quain

THE COUNTY Limerick farmer who chairs the ICMSA’s dairy committee says that global dairy markets have shown some strength at the start of the New Year and he expressed hopes that a trend could develop.

Gerald Quain said the latest Global Dairy Trade showed a positive return of 2.2% after negative trends of the last quarter of 2017 and the GDT index itself was largely stable over the course of 2017 with its peak-to-trough ratio at it lowest in over five years.

Last year saw the range of the index go from a high of 1096 in June to a low of 955 in December; contrast this to 2014 where the peak reached 1482 before falling back to 734 in December of that year.

“While the GDT softened over the course of 2017 it is extremely encouraging to see that those kinds of huge swings did not occur.

“ICMSA is looking for gradual improvement over the coming months given the Fonterra forecast of a 4% lower production in New Zealand for their milk season,” said Mr Quain, who farms in Creggane.

“European quotes also softened over the course of 2017, but butter remains historically high with no signs that demand for this reputationally rehabilitated product is wavering. European average prices for the last week of 2017 record butter at €4,580 per tonne but, more importantly, Irish butter is returning €5,040 per tonne. This is very encouraging as we face into 2018 and it is vital that all returns are maximized and returned directly to farmers on the ground. While powders remain weak they have shown increases in the last week of the year and it would be helpful if powders could continue to increase in the coming months to match those returns of butter,” he continued.   

Mr Quain concluded by saying that he expected the relative stability in the market to convince dairy processors to start the year off on a positive note by holding milk price at its current levels and, above all, to spare no effort towards ensuring that this price remains strong running up to and through the peak milk production months.

Meanwhile, Limerick ICMSA chairman Tom Blackburn, who made national headlines after his comments in last week’s Farm Leader about the dangers of taking photos of newly-born calves and cow, has hit out at the ongoing problems associated with “calendar farming”.

The open period for slurry spreading in Limerick begins on Monday, January 15. Mr Blackburn expects the drawbacks associated with this rigid adherence to the calendar to be painfully obvious in the weeks immediately after that date.

“Current weather conditions - or anything like them - from the 15th onwards will prevent many local farmers from spreading slurry when the period opens. Farmers are extremely frustrated and anxious in many areas as tanks are rising and many anticipate difficulties getting it out once the period opens due to the poor weather conditions and massive rainfall.

“We’ve always felt that the system needs to be more responsive so that when a ‘window of opportunity’ presents itself that farmers can get going then. Realistically ‘calendar farming’ was always too rigid and inflexible and was based on traditional weather patterns, but as climate change kicks in and changes - often drastically – traditional weather patterns then this old reliance on historical weather patterns is becoming even more cumbersome and irrelevant. It’s going to have to change and ICMSA will be pressing for the new reality to be faced and factored-in,” he said.