Irish Dairy Board seeks to milk market by rebranding as Ornua as quotas end

Farmers have organised “end-of-quotas” parties to ring in the April 1st regime change

On the moo-ve: after more than three decades, the milk quota regime is being abolished. Photograph: AFP/George Gobet

On the moo-ve: after more than three decades, the milk quota regime is being abolished. Photograph: AFP/George Gobet

 

Dairy farmers are going to be partying like it’s the early 1980s tomorrow night because, after more than three decades, the milk quota regime is being abolished, meaning farmers will be able to produce as much “white gold” as they like.

Some have even organised “end-of-quotas” parties to ring in the April 1st regime change, with ceremonial milkings on the cards.

The Irish Dairy Board, which is owned by Irish dairy processing co-operatives and companies and which represents about 14,000 dairy farmers, will be celebrating too. Five years of preparations for the new era of Irish dairy will culminate tomorrow with a major rebrand – behold Ornua, the IDB’s new incarnation. A huge amount of market testing was done on various permutations of the new name, and because the IDB is internationally focused, selling into more than 100 markets, it was decided to run the words Ór and Nua together and to go fada-less.

In 2010 the IDB implemented a business transformation strategy so it would be ready to take advantage of the new opportunities that the removal of milk-production restrictions will bring.

“We’re growing our market presence, and we’re ready to go post-quota,” says spokeswoman Jeanne Kelly. The IDB’s core markets at the moment are Germany, the UK and the US, but it is also focusing on international markets where there’s an emerging demand for dairy. Populations are growing in these countries, with more people moving into the middle classes, and then of course there’s the increasing westernisation of diets.

“We’re seeing growing demand in countries that in the past had never eaten dairy,” she said.

Key targets include the Middle East, Africa, China and Russia (where the IDB is awaiting the removal of the ban on western food imports).

The company is also in the process of building the first global home for the production and packing of Kerrygold butter (which is owned by the IDB) in a state-of-the-art facility in Mitchelstown, Co Cork.

“We see Kerrygold as a key vehicle for the extra milk that’s going to flow,” says Kelly. “We need the infrastructure in place to support the development of the brand.”

She cautioned that this is going to be a relatively tough year for dairy farmers – excellent weather in all milk-producing areas of the world last year resulted in a surge in output. That, combined with the Russian ban and the fact that Chinese buyers withdrew from the market, pushed down prices. However, she said market sentiment is stabilising and buyers are beginning to return, and emphasised that the medium- to long-term outlook for dairy remains really strong.

“We’re very optimistic about the future.”