LETTER: Farmers' role undervalued

October 13th, 2018 5:00 PM

By Southern Star Team

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SIR – Last week, along with many local farmers, I attended a tour of West Cork’s Carbery Co-Op, one of the most successful in the country. It was the first tour of its kind and myself and the other farmers were keen to take a look around.

It’s amazing to think that 60% of Carbery’s products are exported to the UK. With Brexit around the corner – and the possibility of a no-deal, hard Brexit looming – I asked them how they planned to deal with the fall-out. The answer lies somewhere between Italy and China, apparently: in providing a new Carbery Mozzarella to satisfy the ‘growing Asian pizza industry.’

Six months out from Brexit day, one of our most successful producers is in the ‘experimental phase’ of producing Mozarella.

Maybe Irish-made Italian cheese on Asian pizzas isn’t as strange as it sounds but for farmers like myself, it’s hard not to worry that, whatever the fallout from Brexit, it’s the farmers – our food producers – on the front line who will bear the real brunt.

We all rely on farmers to eat, to survive, yet time and time again this is undervalued, mainly because people outside the business don’t really get to see or know what goes into making our businesses work and survive. Conventional drystock farmers need €4.40/kg to break even; they’re currently down to €3.85/kg with the gains going to the factories and retailers on the back of loss-making prices to farmers.

Carbery offer a better price for milk than most, but farmers effectively have to over-produce to make a living in this industry. 

To do this, they must increase stocking rates, making them increasingly vulnerable in situations like this year’s fodder crisis. In fact, ‘vulnerable’ is an understatement when you consider the potential loss of 60% of West Cork’s dairy exports. 

It is vital that we continue to explore opening new, sustainable markets and opportunities, not just to fill the gap but to ensure the continued growth and success of our industry.

The Social Democrats’ Alternative Budget 2019 would provide a special Brexit fund of €40m to help insulate indigenous industries heavily dependent on trade with the UK, including agriculture, food and fisheries.


Holly McKeever Cairns,

 Ardagh, Church Cross,


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