In anticipation of the upcoming agreement and the WTO round of talks I met the dairy industry chief executives and pointed out to them that we could no longer rely on intervention to the extent that we had relied on it. We have 70,000 tonnes of butter in intervention and a similar amount of skim milk powder out of a total of 200,000 tonnes. The Commission is afraid of mountains of butter and powder again. It knows very well that it makes no sense whatsoever to proceed in that direction.
The Prospectus study was embarked on and I have since met the chief executives of the co-ops, PLCs and talked to them about sharing facilities. There was a meeting with Dairygold early this week and the chief executives said they had four plants in their co-op making the same product. The costs and the overheads involved means they cannot continue like that in the future. We have six main plants in Ireland and we have approximately the same amount of milk as Denmark, yet it has only one for the entire country.
When I made the case, as Deputy Hayes made it, to try to help the industry in the best way I could at the Council of Ministers by looking for 100,000 tonnes of butter per annum, it was aghast. I remember the Danish Minister asking me afterwards if I was serious. The Minister from the Netherlands told me there was not any future in shovelling butter into intervention. It would cause mayhem because it must come out of storage sooner or later. The taxpayers pay for it in storage and when it comes out, it depresses prices in the marketplace or, alternatively, it is dumped on third countries, which are the least developed in the world. They are trying to eke out a living and to develop their industry. There was an agreement on 70,000 tonnes depreciating to 30,000.
I met Dan Flinter of Enterprise Ireland, who will retire soon, and some other senior people there to show my support for the industry in new processes and products because that is the only way to go. The leaders of our dairy industry are being less than fair to farmer producers who have improved their position. Anyone going into a dairy farm now compared to 25 years ago will see fabulous milking parlours and good breeds of cattle. There is better protein and solids in milk than there was before, although we have some way to go yet. However, the amount of improvement and development on the farms is not reflected in the processing sector. There are plenty of opportunities in that area, particularly when one considers that there are 400 million consumers in Europe, which will increase to 509 million from 1 April next year. I am glad that Dairygold, which has appointed a young manager, is embarking on that route.
I launched a commemorative stamp recently for a Cork man, Henry Ford, who came from my parish in Ballinascarty – I did not see Deputy Boyle there. He made the old model T car. He had to develop the range of his products because if he had continued with the model T, Ford would be out of business now. He could not say he would store the model T for years and expect the taxpayer to pay for it. Society changes and modernises. Our dairy industry must do the same.