The decision by Dairygold to launch its Pastureland cheese range on the US market has provoked considerable disquiet among dairy farmers, and some tensions within Ornua.

The Irish Farmers Journal canvassed the views of farmers and farm representatives on the matter.

Dairygold suppliers were generally reluctant to speak on the record, but two were willing to speak off the record.

Gerald Quain chair of ICMSA’s dairy committee

“ICMSA favours an efficient centralised marketing system and we believe that it has served Irish co-ops – and their farmer owners – well. Farmers are concerned that where co-ops compete, it will potentially undermine Ornua’s high-value brands by having to defend themselves from Irish competition and if that competition moves onto the area of price then we would be very anxious that the farmers will end up carrying the costs of two farmer-owned co-ops competing against each other in one of our most valuable overseas markets.

“It’s very difficult to work out how any of this will benefit farmers. History is repeating itself and senior management within the dairy industry must ensure that the returns to Irish dairy farmers are maximised in export markets and not undermined by competing brands that will not deliver sustainable prices and it will be the farmer who’ll end up carrying the costs. These issues need to be resolved, and quickly.”

Brian Rushe IFA deputy president

“We have a brand in Kerrygold that is unmatched in the [United] States; no one can compete with it in terms of value or provenance.

“But now we have two Irish products competing with Kerrygold. And the only way that they can compete for market share is either through price or differentiation. And because they can’t compete on differentiation they have to compete on price.

“That will ultimately cause downward pressure on price at retail level. Farmers will end up paying for this, as sure as night follows day. It is farmers competing with farmers.”

John Coughlan Dairygold supplier and former IFA deputy president

“My fear is that farmers will end up paying the cost of developing and marketing these products. Kerry, Glanbia and now Dairygold have opened their own routes to market in the US. But will farmers have to pay for these routes to market?

“Also, if the American market is that important and lucrative, then Dairygold should be able to pay a much higher price for milk. There is no point going into the US market without Dairygold giving a higher milk price to farmers.”

Dairygold supplier from north Munster

“My honest opinion is that this move is madness. Dairygold suppliers were up in arms when Glanbia launched the Truly Grass Fed in the US and now we’re coming on and doing it. In the heel of the hunt the farmer will pay for this.

“I’m no big fan of Ornua. They could be doing a better job, but at the same time this is only complicating matters.

“Improving Ornua should be the aim. Selling our produce under the one umbrella, and I mean a right good umbrella, would surely be better for all dairy farmers.”

Dairygold supplier from Cork

“I can’t say if it is a bad or a good thing. Like most Dairygold suppliers, I think I need more information on this. These days, because of Covid-19, there are fewer meetings and farmers are not as up to speed. But I don’t accept that Dairygold is not supportive of Ornua.”