Rules governing New Zealand’s dairy industry up for review
In launching the review, New Zealand's Minister for Agriculture said the rules introduced in 2001 had seen great growth in dairy exports but it had come at a cost to the environment.

The rules governing New Zealand’s $17bn (€10bn) dairy sector have been opened for public discussion.

The Dairy Industry Restructuring Act (DIRA) was introduced in 2001, creating Fonterra and regulating its dominance in the domestic market. In May, it was announced it would undergo a review and a discussion document has now been published.

According to New Zealand’s Minister for Agriculture Damien O’Connor it will focus on five main areas with a number of options to reform each.

He said: “The review is looking at open entry and exit obligations, the farmgate milk price settings, contestability for farmers’ milk, the risks and costs for the sector, and the incentives or disincentives for dairy to move to sustainable, higher-value production and processing.”

Impact

Minister O’Connor said it was time to take stock of the legislation and how it had impacted on the dairy industry’s performance.

While it was clear it had grown, with dairy export receipts doubling since 2001, he said there had been negative effects on New Zealand’s environment.

He cited increased greenhouse gas emissions, nitrate leaching, and the expansion of dairy into increasingly marginal land areas as the negative impacts.

The growth he said had also contributed to a reliance on commodities, like whey powder, and that the advantages of more strategic global value-add opportunities were not being pursued at scale.

Fonterra

Reacting to the publication of the review paper, Fonterra said DIRA was a complex piece of legislation and it was important to New Zealand that the review is thorough.

In a statement, Fonterra said: “We recognise the significant work that the Ministry for Primary Industries and Minister O’Connor have put into the document and we appreciate their high degree of engagement with industry so far.

"We will now consider the document, then discuss with our farmers the impact the options may have on their families and businesses. Ultimately, we all want the same thing – a prosperous and sustainable dairy industry for New Zealand.”

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Surge in demand for dairy worker permits
Almost all permits available for dairy farm assistants from outside Europe have been issued by the Department of Business.

There has been a surge in demand from dairy farmers for work permits allowing for workers to come to Ireland from outside Europe.

In May 2018, 50 permits for dairy farm assistants from countries outside the European Economic Area (the EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) were made available by the Department of Business.

By the end of 2018 just 11 of these permits had been issued, though number have risen sharply since the start of the year.

In response to a parliamentary question from Fine Gael’s John Deasy on 18 April, Minister for Business Heather Humphreys confirmed 49 of the permits have now been issued.

Farmers are required to pay permit workers a minimum of €22,000 a year based on a 39-hour week.

Uptake

Employment permits were also introduced on a pilot basis for meat factory operatives and horticulture workers.

There has been major demand for permits from processors. Having been initially granted 250 permits, factories were given several increases, with 1,500 now available. A total of 1,339 permits have been issued so far.

Uptake has been much slower for horticulture permits. Just 91 of the 500 available permits have been issued.

In total, 1,479 of the 2,050 permits have been issued.

Pig farmers

Deasy queried whether the unused permits could be allocated to pig farmers. Minister Humphreys said the permits were not transferable and the role of pig farmer is currently on the ineligible occupations list.

The Minister elaborated, saying: “A submission was made to the most recent review of the occupations lists on behalf of the pig farmer occupation. However, available research does not indicate a shortage of labour in the sector.

"It is proposed that the sector provide more information, in particular detailed evidence of efforts to recruit from within the EEA for consideration during the next review.”

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Just under 2,000t of SMP remains in EU intervention stocks
As intervention stocks are nearly cleared, the latest SMP sale saw just 33t sold at a price of €1,660/t.

There is just under 2,000t of skim milk powder (SMP) remaining in European intervention stocks following the latest SMP sale.

A small amount of 33t of Finnish stocks was sold at the most recent tender on Tuesday 16 April. It sold for €1,660/t.

The next tender will take place on 21 May when 1,106t will be offered. The vast majority of the remaining stocks are in Spain, while there are smaller amounts available in Germany, and the UK.

Some 380,000t of SMP has been sold out of intervention over the last 12 months, with all Irish stocks having been cleared in February.

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Milk Quality Ireland to address the challenges of dairy
The transition to selective dry cow therapy will be an important issue for Milk Quality Ireland.

The Irish Milk Quality Co-operative Society Ltd (IMQCS) has changed its name to Milk Quality Ireland Co-operative Society Ltd following a decision by its committee of management.

Milk Quality Ireland is a collaborative body with a remit in the area of dairy farm infrastructure, which includes representatives from the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS), the dairy co-ops, Teagasc, milking machine manufacturers and milking machine technicians.

It was established 30 years ago in 1989 to improve milk quality standards in Ireland, to provide suitable training and certification programmes in milking machine testing and installation and to strive to ensure that Irish milking machine installation and testing standards equate with best international practice.

Milk Quality Ireland also maintains a register of certified milking machine technicians, with 263 technicians currently on the Milk Quality Ireland register.

Milk Quality Ireland will continue this important work with a renewed focus on helping the dairy industry and farmers to meet significant new demands

The chair of Milk Quality Ireland Jerry Long said: “I’m extremely pleased to announce the unveiling of Milk Quality Ireland. In recent years, we have focused on broader areas of milk quality, as well as providing training and certification of milking machine technicians.

“Milk Quality Ireland will continue this important work with a renewed focus on helping the dairy industry and farmers to meet significant new demands in relation to milk quality.

“These new demands relate to the adoption of non-chlorine cleaning protocols for milking equipment and bulk milk tanks, which will require changes to existing practices at farm level in order to respond to market requirements.

The body will also play a vital role in ensuring that there are sustainable career pathways and fit for purpose educational programmes for the service providers

“Furthermore, the transition to selective dry cow therapy will be an important issue for Milk Quality Ireland, as new legislation will prohibit the blanket use of antibiotics on dairy farms by 2022. This transition will require careful management including the need to scale up the level of milk recording across the national herd,” he said.

He also said that the body will also play a vital role in ensuring that there are sustainable career pathways and fit for purpose educational programmes for the service providers that Irish dairy farmers depend upon and help to underpin the industry’s high-quality standards.

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