The directors of Omagh-based Strathroy Dairy have told an Oireachtas Agriculture Committee that the National Dairy Council (NDC) is being "disingenuous and is misinforming the customer" with its NDC Packaging Mark.
Ruairi and Cormac Cunningham said that Strathroy, which is based in Omagh, does not qualify for the packaging 'Mark' because while its milk might be sourced from farms in the Republic, it is processed in the North.
"We have depots and distribution facilities all over Ireland, and employ more than 250 people, but because we process this Irish milk in Omagh, we cannot use the words 'Farmed in the Republic of Ireland," said Cormac Cunningham. "Making any distinction between cows North and South is not only bad for us but bad for the entire dairy industry on the island. […] Looking at where the cow is from is not the way to run a business."
Cunningham argued that the NDC classification system was anti-competitive, and could contravene EU regulations.
"In my view the reason the NDC campaign was launched was to try to force us out of the market and to give others an unfair competitive advantage over the major liquid milk processor on the island," he said.
Cunningham added that while the NDC is not a State of semi-State body, and is financed by the industry, its 'Mark' is having an impact on what milk producers retailers are eager to do business with. "Some retailers may also have a sense that this mark demotes higher quality but it does not," he said. "The NDC does not carry out quality audits on the farms and because the word "National" is in the title, it may confuse people into thinking it is national policy when it is not."
Strathroy Dairy supply a number of Irish retailers, including Aldi, Lidl, Londis, Gala and Spar, and approximately 90% of its business is own-label. It also supplies Musgrave Group with milk under its Strathroy brand.
In August, Aldi issued a statement after some of its milk, purchased from Strathroy, was found to originate from Northern Irish farms. Previously, the retailer had pledged that "its milk is 100% sourced from Republic of Ireland farms."
© 2013 - Checkout Magazine by Stephen Wynne-Jones