The Irish Dairy Industry: Globalisation, Competition, Recession, & Consumerism

Brian Clancy, Angela Wright


In today’s global environment, the dairy farmer and his herd have lost major importance and influence as a consequence of a variety of factors, among them the Industrial revolution, continued and increasing consumerism, the technological explosion, and the ever-expanding concentration of people in urban areas. This research study examines the Irish dairy industry in its current format. The objective of this study is to look at what dairy farmers need to do to grow and expand their business efficiently and effectively. The major challenge for the industry is to attract a new generation of knowledgeable workers to the land. This needs to be balanced by ensuring that both the deep traditions and the experienced culture of farming generations remain at the heart of agricultural practice.

The future of the Irish Dairy industry will be scrutinised over the next few years as reforms take place and economies adjust, amid the expectation that world markets will stabilise. The proposed abolition of milk quotas in 2015 will be one of the most significant landmarks in farming history since Ireland’s entry into the European Union in 1973, and the introduction of milk quotas in 1984. This study also examines whether Ireland will remain on its current trend of a steady decline of individuals holding farms, and if the industry will become a gathering of “multi-nationals”, similar to other commodity markets. Can the Irish dairy farming community formalise a strategy together to ensure that all members make a substantial contribution and have an input in its future success?

After an extensive review of the relevant pertinent literature, a qualitative methodology was applied for this current research. Face to face interviews were conducted with relevant and appropriate people, including the current Irish Minister for Agriculture, Mr. Simon Coveney T.D. Nine interviews were completed for the purpose of this study, and contributors were purposely chosen because of their expertise in the area.

The study reveals that the outlook for the Irish dairy industry is a positive one, but it will be important for the industry to closely examine comparative situations, in particular to give attention to the New Zealand model. Findings suggest that dairying post 2015 can do the same for rural Ireland as it did for the South Island of New Zealand 20 years ago. Caution must also be exercised that Ireland does not experience the same social implications as the New Zealanders did. This study has found that grass-based milk production is an area where Ireland has a real, sustainable, competitive, and international advantage. The focus and ambition of the future should be for the dairy industry to turn the land of green hills and mountains into the land of the green ‘notes’, preferably euro notes. This study will benefit the dairy industry, farming organisations, entrepreneurs, legislators and political leaders in analysing the industry and determining its future.

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Copyright (c) 2013 Brian Clancy, Angela Wright

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