The newly formed Munster Dairy Producer Organisation, comprised of Kerry milk suppliers, has been informally approached by processors about their future milk supply plans.

In response to a question asking if the group had been approached by any processors at its meeting last week, Limerick dairy farmer Martin Crowe, who facilitated the meeting, said there had been “soundings”. Suppliers to Kerry are under contract until April 2026, but they are not tied in beyond that date.

The group is currently waiting for formal recognition of its producer organisation (PO) status from the Department of Agriculture.

Barrister Ciaran Dolan, an approved PO facilitator who applied to the Department on behalf of the group, said he expects to get formal recognition this week.

Crowe told the meeting once the group gets formal recognition, it will open for membership via an application form on a website.

The group is made up of suppliers to Kerry Group who wish to join a PO.

It currently has a steering committee of 21 farmers from Limerick, Kerry and Clare.

The PO will be open to negotiations with both Kerry and other processors for their milk.

Farmer views

Dairy farmer members of the steering committee spoke to the Irish Farmers Journal about why they joined the group.

Victor Gardner, Ballysteen, Co Limerick

“They [Kerry] put notice on our milk contract a couple of years ago that they were terminating it. You can only sit on the fence for so long and say, ‘What’s going to happen next?’

“Nothing happened in year one after this and nothing happened three-quarters of the way through year two. We said then, ‘We can’t sit on the fence any longer.’ We need to be proactive, we need to secure our future as milk suppliers, whether we’re going to be supplying Kerry or anybody else.

“That’s where the impetus to set up this group came from, in my opinion. There are others who would say we’re disgruntled with regards milk pricing, and absolutely that does come into it.”

Rosaleen O’Reilly, Quin, Co Clare

“This whole venture was borne out of frustration. We have options that we didn’t have prior to this. We can come together as a group to negotiate on behalf of farmers.

“We’re not ruling anything in or out, we’ll talk to anybody.

“Our first port of call will probably be Kerry, but I have to tell you, weariness would be the general feeling amongst farmers about having any further dealings with Kerry based on previous experience.

“What we want to do is to be able to get the best possible price for our milk. We’ve seen POs work in the UK. For me personally, it was a case of being so frustrated and annoyed at what was going on, that you can curse the dark or turn on the light.”

Kieran Clifford, Beaufort, Co Kerry

“From what we research and understand, there’s loads of capacity around the country for milk. This group was setup to see what options are out there; to explore all options and see is there any avenue for us to get a better milk price. This PO would really have two remits, milk price into the future and conditions of sale. It has no other distractions.

“I really don’t mind where this group goes, once it delivers a better price and better milk conditions.”

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