“The prices on offer now are the same as those available 30 years ago. In the meantime, the costs associated with milk production have increased substantially. This is not a sustainable scenario,” McCormack said.
“Irish milk producers have chased volume as a means of offsetting the reduction in margins available to them. Environmental constraints will not make this an option into the future.
The only way forward is to secure sustainable farmgate milk prices, and the same principle holds, where beef is concerned.
McCormack believes that a milk price in excess of 40c/L would help deliver sustainability on Irish dairy farms. But is this a realistic prospect?
“Consumers want their food produced in ways that are wholly compliant with the highest environmental standards,” he said.
The question then becomes: are they prepared to pay for this?
The ICMSA president confirmed the growing environmental debate that is now taking place in countries around the world, adding:
“There’s not a day that goes by without the issue of the environment raising its head in one context or another. The reality is that Irish farmers must respond to this challenge.”
Role Of CAP
McCormack views the role of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) as central in moving these issues forward.
“We need a CAP that will allow commercial farmers balance their commitment to food production with that of achieving the highest possible environmental standards within their businesses.
“The proper incentives must be put in place in order to allow this happen.”
Where Brexit is concerned, the ICMSA president believes that no one really knows how the issue will play out over the coming weeks and months.
“Priority number one is to ensure that Irish exports to and through the UK are allowed to continue in as seamless a way as possible,” he added.
One particular area of concern for the ICMSA president has been the fall-off in EU veal consumption over recent months.
“This is a direct consequence of Covid-19. Irish calves are much sought after by European veal producers,” McCormack said.
Our welfare standards are amongst the highest in Europe, from an animal transport point of view.
“All of this is very positive. However, time will tell how the veal market itself will evolve across the EU during the early months of 2021,” he concluded.