Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers' Association (ICMSA) dairy committee chair Noel Murphy has called on milk processors to "wake up" to the reality facing their farmer suppliers by paying at least 37c/l for milk supplied in November.

Murphy insisted that such a price rise must signal the beginning of a series of rises to be introduced in the coming months.

“The only surprise with the October milk supply figure being down 12.1% is that the reduction wasn’t greater.

"We anticipate November and December figures will be down even more, as farmers - many of whom would normally milk over the winter - have taken the decision to dry off cows, as it is simply not economically viable to continue to milk them," he said.

It is hugely frustrating, he argued, to see milk processors take the decision to sit on increases rather than pass them back to the farmers who have been producing milk below the cost of production for months now.

Cost of production

Murphy said that Teagasc estimated the cost of production in 2023 to be about 37c/l and the reality today is that only one Irish processor is paying a base milk price above this level.

“Farmers have voted with their feet and dried off cows. That’s going to continue until and unless milk processors wake up to the reality that many farmers are not in a position to pay their bills this year.

"Milk processors are very good at preaching sustainability to farmers, but they need to deliver sustainable prices.

"Based on the ICMSA milk tracker, Dairygold, Tirlán, Tipperary Co-op, North Cork and Aurivo are at the bottom of the milk price league representing a very substantial percentage of Irish milk," he said.

He argued that if Irish farmers are to deliver sustainability, they need to be receiving a sustainable base price and not "gimmick discretionary bonuses".

Token single-cent increases were now no longer acceptable

Murphy added that dairy farmers need to see farmgate prices on an upward trajectory and that must begin with a minimum 37c/l for November milk.

He said that token single-cent increases were now no longer acceptable and that it was time for the processors to begin restoring farmer confidence after what had been a frankly brutal period.