A group of Kerry milk suppliers is to set up a producer organisation (PO) to represent their own strategic interests. The group held its second public meeting in Newcastlewest, Co Limerick, recently with a large attendance agreeing to form their own organisation.

Ciaran Dolan, the former ICMSA general secretary, has been appointed as the Department of Agriculture facilitator, of what will be one of the first POs in the country.

The group is unhappy with the milk price Kerry Group is paying them.

With the existing Kerry milk supply agreement due to expire in 2026, the group wants to look at all options, including whether to demand negotiation rights ahead of any new agreement.

The suppliers are also open to looking for another processor for their milk.

The group has concerns around the discussions between Kerry Co-op and Kerry Group in relation to a sale, or partial sale, of Kerry’s Irish dairy business to the co-op.

Limerick dairy farmer Martin Crowe chaired the most recent meeting.

He told the Irish Farmers Journal that over 300 people were in attendance, from across Kerry, Clare, Cork and Limerick, with the room strongly supportive of taking the next step collectively.

He added that frustration with the lack of response from Kerry Group to milk price protests over the summer has steeled farmer resolve, and remarked that the age profile of farmers at the meeting, and an earlier one in Adare, “was younger than would normally be at a farmer meeting”.

Kerry Group has consistently lagged at the lower reaches of the milk price league this year, with the decade-long “leading-milk price” wrangle no nearer a resolution, despite an arbitration process that delivered a verdict widely regarded as a victory for suppliers.

A steering group has now been formed with the aim of formally setting up a producer organisation, and all Kerry suppliers will be invited to join.