Farmers warn of more street protests


The incoming government was warned by the Irish Farmers Association leader, Mr John Dillon yesterday that it faced a rise in street protests if problems facing dairy farmers were not addressed.

Mr Dillon told a protest march and rally of around 1,000 dairy farmers in Dublin that dairy farmers were now fighting for their very survival because of the low prices they are being paid for milk.

The average dairy farmers income was down €8,000 a year at a time when no other group in the country was facing such cuts.

"No other group in this country is facing those cuts. No other group would tolerate those cuts and no way will dairy farmers," he told the protesters outside the EU offices.

"Today we are protesting in Dublin. We are protesting in Strasbourg next week. And, if necessary, we will gear up action until we get results," he warned.

Mr Dillon also had a warning for the co-operatives and he told them it was time for them to support their farmer supplies.

"You have always been well able to find enough money for higher wages and salaries. Now farmers are demanding you find the money to pay us a decent price for our milk and we will not accept any excuses. No more passing back the pain," he said.

Outlining his demands for the sector, Mr Dillon said the industry needed open-ended EU intervention for skim milk powder, higher processing aids, more EU export refunds and markets needed to be won back.

Mr Michael Murphy, chairman of IFA's dairy committee said 30,000 dairy farmers had gone out of business in Ireland in the last 20 years and if current conditions continued, the entire sector would be wiped out.

Mr John Mannion, vice chairman of the dairy committee accused the EU of failing to fight Europe's case against the US which continued to make its farmers more competitive internationally by subsidising them.

He said that recently, the Bush administration had give the US dairy sector £85 billion in subsidies to supplement the £100 million given five years ago.

American dairy farmers who were not limited to what they could produce, were able to take markets from Europe's farmers who were not subsidised in such a way.

He questioned the commitment of the Union to the dairy sector saying that the portion of the Common Agricultural Policy budget given to dairying had dropped in recent years from 30 per cent of the total to only 4 per cent now.

Mr Eamon Bray, chairman of the organisation's liquid milk producers, said farmers were now receiving the same price for milk they were getting in the 1980's despite the fact costs had increased dramatically since then.

The turn out for the demonstration at around 1,000 farmers was well down on the predictions made by the Irish Farmers Association which had been expecting 2,000 to 3,000 people. The group assembled at the Merrion Street entrance to the Dáil and marched around the building to Kildare Street.