Responding to a written question from Fine Gael TD, Deputy Patrick O'Donovan, Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said milk production has grown from 1.47 billion to 1.65 billion litres between April and May 2014 and April and May 2015. This represents an increase of 12.2% in the volume of milk collected during these periods.

Coveney says this confirms the view widely held by both the dairy sector and market analysts "that the milk quota regime acted as a brake on the potential of the sector to respond positively to market opportunities.

"This indicates that we are well on the way to achieving the 50% increase envisaged in Food Harvest 2020," he said.

The Minister said that while there is still "some softness" in the global dairy markets, "most analysts predict that medium-term prospects are good, with growth in world population and wealth expected to stimulate strong levels of demand for dairy products. My aim is to help position the Irish dairy sector to be able to take advantage of this opportunity."

He added that price volatility is a challenge and, while EU market supports remain in place, it is also critically important that processors, farmers and the banking system work together to mitigate any negative impact.