The Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) has challenged the description of Irish agriculture by President Micheal D Higgins in a recent interview.

ICMSA president Denis Drennan said he wants to correct a number of what he terms as misunderstandings in an interview given by President Higgins to the Irish Examiner.

President Higgins is reported as having said that Ireland has paid “a very high ecological price for ... relying on an American model of agriculture being imposed by the European Union (EU)”.

The President also called out what he said were “contradictions” in Irish infant formula being exported to China.


In response, Drennan said the average Irish dairy farm responsible for producing milk processed into formula for the Chinese market had less than one-third of the number of cows of its American counterpart.

He added that they are not in any way comparable and it is hugely important that no impression is given that Irish dairy farms were anything like those in the US.

“In exactly the same way as China exports goods to us that we value and which are based on essential qualities that we associate with Chinese economy and society, surely we are allowed to export to them a product – milk-based baby formula – that they associate with us as producers of superb quality and sustainable food?

“I’m not sure what the contradictions inherent in this concept are,” Drennan said.

Production volume

In the interview, President Higgins also said Irish farmers should be sustained and the importance of what they do recognised, as well as increasing costs they face recognised.

He added: "You will not be able to do it by having volume production - for God's sake, look at what happened when they removed the quota in relation to milk production.”

Drennan said President Higgins is correct in identifying the “volume-over-margin” dilemma that has pushed Irish farmers closer and closer to the edge.

“We are still stuck on this economic ‘ledge’ where the State and the EU are unwilling to properly support sustainable farming, while the consumers - with the tolerance of the same EU and member states - are unwilling to pay the actual production costs of the food they consume.

“This is the ‘cheap food’ policy that emerged some decades ago and it should have been addressed then by those around the cabinet table and in a position to see it as the emerging problem it most certainly was - and is.

“Until and unless the EU and national governments are prepared to face up to this mistake, then the dilemma so acutely identified by the President will remain unanswered and the family model will be further undermined,” Drennan added.