A recent radio interview featuring Glanbia Chairman Liam Herlihy has led to a war of words breaking out between the plc and the ICMSA.

Reacting to Mr Herlihy’s “astonishing” comments on the ‘Morning Ireland’ broadcast of September 17th, ICMSA President John O’Leary said he was mystified as to how anyone could attempt to paint an optimistic picture of the dairy industry.

The impression given by Mr Herlihy was “sharply at odds with the experience of thousands of milk suppliers” according to Mr O’Leary.

That “no reference whatsoever” was made to recent falls in milk price, along with the prospect of further cuts in price being widely touted within the processing sector, had left suppliers bewildered.

“I cannot have been the only person listening to Mr Herlihy and wondering whether we were thinking about the same sector,” said Mr O’Leary.

“I really do think that the first step that needs to be taken if we are to restore milk price is that senior people within the industry would, at the very least, acknowledge that there is a huge degree of downright fear and anxiety out there amongst farmers at the slide in milk price with many pundits predicting catastrophic milk price cuts by early next year.”

The Munster Express sent a copy of John O’Leary’s comments to Glanbia for an official reaction, but a spokesperson said it wouldn’t specifically elaborate on the ICMSA’s claims.

However the spokesperson did state that Glanbia believed that the ICMSA had been “inaccurate” in its statement and ought to have contacted RTE before publishing its statement.

This in turn led to our receiving the following response from the ICMSA:

“ICMSA stands by it conviction that the impression was given in Mr Herlihy’s interview that the outlook for dairy markets and milk suppliers was upbeat and positive,” it began.

“ICMSA is amazed that anyone could arrive at that conclusion, and our amazement will be shared by every farmer supplying milk into Glanbia who have seen their milk price cut steadily for some time now.

“Just two days after Mr Herlihy’s upbeat interview, the Irish Dairy Board announced that it was cutting butter price again.

“ICMSA is itself positive that if corrective action and proper policy is applied that milk prices can be stabilized but we don’t see any use in pretending the situation isn’t very serious now and that things are generally hunky-dory.

“That’s not the case and it certainly isn’t how the farmers supplying milk into Glanbia feel right now. If anyone in Glanbia doubts that then they should contact us and we can give them a few hundred phone numbers”

A Teagasc report published last week suggests that 2009 milk prices are likely to be significantly lower than those achieved this or last year.
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