Farming & Fisheries

Fears winter milk supplies will be hit hard by constant energy cost hikes

September 17th, 2022 5:50 PM

By Emma Connolly

Sen Tim Lombard with his daughters Cora and Ellen. The dairy farmer says there should be an exemtpion from peak time energy prices for agriculture. (Photo: Denis Boyle)

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DAIRY farmers will have no way to avoid higher energy tariffs that look set to be introduced between 5-7pm.

A request for an exemption from the proposed hikes, by Senator Tim Lombard, a dairy farmer himself, fell on deaf ears at a recent Oireachtas committee meeting.

The country’s energy regulator has issued a consultation document in which it proposed the new tariffs be applied to energy suppliers to reduce demand during the peak hours of 5-7pm.

‘But it looks like it’s going to be a “one size fits all” policy which is grossly unfair as farmers have no option but to milk at this time,’ said Sen Lombard.

He said it was further evidence of the urban/rural disconnect, and Upton farmer Vanessa Kiely O’Connor agreed.

‘There is absolutely no comprehension in Dublin, or in urban areas, how things work in rural Ireland. Our rural TDs are fighting our corner but they’re being challenged at every turn,’ she said.

‘We can put all the energy saving devices in place such as plate coolers etc, but they’ll be of no benefit to us with the rising energy costs,’ she said.

In the event of power outages things will get even worse with many farmers forced to use diesel to power generators.

‘Farmers are known for their resilience, but morale in the sector is at an all-time low, and mother nature hasn’t helped,’ she said.

Vanessa said she had concerns about winter milk farmers: ‘The concern is they won’t be able to turn on the milking machine if their costs go any higher. The multiples aren’t giving proper increase to address the existing input costs, so we could see a situation where there isn’t any milk in shops this winter. It’s possible,’ she said.

Schull dairy farmer Aidan McCarthy said the positive in the equation right now is that milk prices are solid.

‘But electricity hikes are just coming on the back of grass problems and increases in fertiliser, meal and diesel. It’s just one more thing,’ he said.

Aidan recently hosted Tanáiste Leo Varadkar on his farm when he was in West Cork.  ‘I took the opportunity to highlight how Drinagh employs 250 people, paid €10m in wages and €80m in milk sales and that all that money is being spent locally, which is a great way to improve the economy. But I also pointed out that with downward pressure on production that spin off will be hit,’ he said.

Senator Lombard concluded: ‘We’re facing into a period of time that’s not just challenging, but scary.’

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