A decade ago, the Irish government decided to make milk an affordable option for people struggling with a diet that was failing to meet demand.
Now, with milk prices on a downward spiral, it is a luxury that many are refusing to give up.
The Irish Government’s new Milk and Dairy Policy aims to bring about an “enormous” rise in milk prices, with prices for organic and whole milk expected to rise by more than 40% between now and 2020, according to the Irish Times.
In the meantime, the government is looking at introducing the so-called ‘dairy tax’, a move that would see the price of milk dropped by up to 40%.
The new plan also includes the introduction of a new levy on dairy products that would be levied on producers, which would see consumers pay an extra €1.30 a litre for milk.
A spokesman for the Minister for Agriculture, Rural Affairs and Fisheries, Sean Kelly, said the government was currently assessing the impact of the new levy.
“The introduction of the levy will be designed to achieve a significant increase in milk costs, and we will assess its impact on milk prices over the coming months,” he said.
“It will not result in a significant reduction in milk supply.
We will be monitoring milk prices in the coming weeks and months.”
He added that, although it would be cheaper to produce milk from local, organic and grass-fed cows, the new policy would mean a higher cost to consumers.
“We will also be exploring the potential of introducing a price levy on products produced from dairy farms.
It is an option we are considering,” he added.
The new policy is set to be presented to the Government by the end of next month.
The milk levy was proposed in the 2016 Budget, which saw a rise in the price for organic milk, as well as a rise to €1 per litre in the cost of grass- or organic milk.
The price increase was criticised by the Irish Farmers Federation, who said the levy would be “an unjustified tax on producers”.
“A tax on organic milk would not help the dairy industry in the long term.
The current tax structure favours producers, but it’s not a sustainable approach for a sector that has been struggling for years to keep up with demand,” the federation said.
“It’s also the least fair way to deal with the issue of rising prices.
The Government needs to be more clear on its objectives and the impact on the dairy sector.”
The Irish Farmers Union said the new plan “raises serious concerns about the impact this new levy will have on the farmers who produce the milk”.
“If farmers are able to keep their prices in check with the rising prices, then the Government’s plan would be a disaster for farmers, the industry and the consumer,” it added.
The dairy industry also said that it would not support the new tax.
“A dairy farmer should be able to produce the same milk that they produce on the same land and at the same price, regardless of whether they produce organic or grass- and organic milk,” the Irish Dairy Farmers Federation said.
“In the long run, the more people that consume organic milk the lower the price will be for consumers, which will negatively impact the dairy economy and the livelihoods of farmers.”