The Deputy has raised an issue in relation to a commercial decision by an individual company. I as Minister cannot have a role in dictating the commercial decisions made by any business. However, I would like to see that the best interests of the Irish dairy sector as a whole are at the core of any decisions made by Irish dairy companies. I would hope that both parties in this instance will endeavour to ensure the best outcome for the Irish dairy sector as a whole.
In 2017, Ireland exported dairy products, including dairy powders to 147 countries totalling over €4.6 billion worth of produce, an increase of over 17% compared to 2016, representing high-quality value-added produce. The US was the sixth largest market for Irish Dairy in 2017, and exports have grown by over 60% since 2012-13. Irish dairy products have a highly rated and hard earned reputation in terms of quality, safety and sustainability, and this gives them a competitive edge in markets over the world.
The long-term fundamentals of the global dairy market are strong, with growing global demand projected from fast developing countries with increasing middle classes and more westernised diets. Whilst significant challenges have continued throughout recent years, in particular price volatility, there is confidence that the Irish and EU dairy sector is well placed to gain from the opportunity presented by expanding global demand. Growing consumer demands for assurance about the standard of food products they consume is another important factor.
Whilst hugely important, these demand led factors will not of themselves underpin the success of our efforts if we are not best in class in terms of the quality of the products that we supply. By best in class we mean quality products, safely, securely and sustainably produced, and being able to verify these criteria objectively, credibly and most importantly, to the satisfaction of international customers.
My Department and I, in conjunction with other stakeholders, including the Irish dairy companies and agencies such as Bord Bia, will continue to play a key role in building the market opportunities for Irish dairy.