As the Deputy will be aware, neither I nor my Department have any role in determining market prices for any commodity, nor can I intervene in the price-setting process.
The average milk price paid to Irish dairy farmers in 2018 was 34 cent per litre, which was higher than the average price paid across the EU of 33 cent per litre. To date in 2019, the average price paid to Irish dairy farmers was 32 cent per litre, which is slightly below the average price paid across the EU.
The Irish dairy market, following on from broader EU and international trends, is currently in a much improved position compared to the relatively recent past during the period 2014 - 2016. Of course, my Department remains extremely vigilant in monitoring the current market and emerging trends, particularly as we approach the peak period for Irish milk production.
In 2018, Ireland exported dairy products to approximately 140 countries totalling over €4.5 billion worth of produce, an increase of over 5% by volume compared to 2017. Most recent CSO figures available to May 2019, indicate further volume growth of over 8% for Irish exports of dairy products.
My Department, in conjunction with other stakeholders, including the Irish dairy companies and agencies such as Bord Bia, are playing a key role in building the market for Irish dairy with intensive Ministerial trade mission programmes and other promotional activities.
I have clearly stated previously, at Council of Ministers meetings and elsewhere, that it is imperative that the Commission remains vigilant in monitoring the market and that it has contingencies in place in the event of market volatility re-emerging in relevant markets, particularly the raw milk, butter and skimmed milk powder markets.
Whilst challenges have continued throughout recent years, in particular price volatility, the long-term fundamentals of the global dairy market are strong, and the Irish dairy sector is well placed to gain from the opportunity presented by expanding global demand.