A good week for dairy!

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The results of this week’s Global Dairy Trade event should give re-assurance to farmers that milk prices will remain reasonably steady over the coming months. In fact, it has been a pretty good news week for the milk sector overall.

Thursday past marked the announcement by Unilever that it was selling its ‘spreads’ business. The company confirmed that sales of products, such as Flora and Stork margarine, were falling – and, in fact, had been doing so for the past 20 years.

This may well have to do with the fact that fewer of us now enjoy breakfast in our homes: the preferred option is to eat on the move. However, indicators from the United States point to a significant resurgence in dairy fat sales. This is based on the products’ natural image and their positive re-assessment as contributors to a healthy diet.

Milk is unique in delivering dietary protein, energy and minerals. The Chinese want to feed their babies more of it because of milk’s inherent nutritional properties. And with the projected baby boom in that country, the only direction of travel global dairy sales should take – one would assume – is upwards.

Meanwhile, the Netherlands is facing up to the prospect of reducing its dairy herd by some 175,000 head over the coming months. The move has been precipitated by the threat of its Nitrates’ Directive derogation being removed by the EU Commission. In tandem with this development, it has also come to light that Dutch consumers strongly prefer milk and dairy products emanating from cows that spend a high proportion of their time actively grazing grass.

Surely, this represents an opportunity for the dairy sector here in Northern Ireland to market its wares accordingly. Some 20 years ago, local beef processors successfully entered the Dutch market with product sold under the Greenfields’ brand. I see no reason why a comparable approach could not be taken by the dairy sector during the period ahead.

As I mentioned at the outset...it hasn’t been a bad week for the milk industry.