The country of Ireland produces 1% of the world’s milk, but it produces 15% of the world’s infant formula. Ireland also thinks it can hold that market share and advance in others in the years ahead.
In a tour of Teagasc, a development agency of the Irish Department of Agriculture, specialists talked about products and policy; the European Union is expected to end quotas in 2015 to reduce government expenditure and to allow farmers to pick which crop or livestock enterprise is most suited to their region.
Ireland is a green and growing countryside, somewhat rugged but with plenty of rainfall and mild temperatures to grow lots of forage. This can make milk production plentiful and low-cost during several months of the year. Scientists are using state of the art technology to increase efficiency in existing milk processing, to mimic cheeses from other regions and to develop new methods of making powered milk and components of milk products for export.
Ireland says its biggest competitor is New Zealand, where a similar climate allows grass fed milk production. New Zealand is also knocking on the door of China as a growing customer.
Ireland promotes their quality of fluid milk, isolation from disease, and economic shipping of dried and component products to markets that can finish the job with their own manufacturing.
China now has consumers who are very concerned about the safety of infant formula, and recent e-coli contaimination from New Zealand has given Ireland a foot hold into the Asian Giant. A dairy researcher remarked that Chinese parents would pay as much as $60 for a single container of formula for their child just to know that it is safe.
Economic Projections for the future indicate Ireland can grow production 20% without difficulty, however the next 30% will require more research and technology to accomplish.
Ken Root is in County Cork in southeastern Ireland.