Glanbia insisted today (15 April) that it was “mindful” of its “social responsibility” to its stakeholders as Irish farmers continued their protests at the company’s recent milk price cuts.

The Ireland-based dairy and ingredients group has faced two days of protests from thousands of angry farmers, upset at last week’s price cut.

Glanbia last week announced a March manufacturing milk price of 21.04 cpl, inclusive of VAT.

The move generated anger among the company’s farmer-suppliers and, at a protest in Kilkenny this morning, Richard Kennedy, chairman of the Irish Farmers Association National Dairy Committee, claimed smaller dairy co-operatives were paying more than Glanbia.

“Glanbia is the largest, most efficient milk processor in the country, with a high value added product mix, the benefit of large scale and international businesses which make a significant contribution to profits,” Kennedy said. “The company cannot credibly justify a price of 20 cent when other smaller co-ops, some reliant on commodity products alone, are paying up to three cent a litre more for March, 2009.”

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Over 2,000 suppliers attended the Kilkenny protest today, the IFA said, and Further protests are planned for Portlaoise and Wexford tomorrow.

Kennedy said suppliers were “furious” and said the average supplier would be EUR18,000 (US$23,714) in the red this year.

“This is intolerable and unsustainable. Glanbia must remember that, if viable incomes cannot be made from milk production, the very existence of Glanbia, primarily a milk processing company, will come under threat,” Kennedy said.

For its part, Glanbia insisted it had helped farmers look to improve efficiency in their production. “Glanbia has worked intensively with farmers in providing advice on how to maximise efficiency and maintain their competitive position,” the company told just-food today.

In its annual report out last week, Glanbia said that it expects 2009 to be a “tough year”.

“Global dairy markets have weakened considerably from previous high levels with the outlook for 2009 deteriorating further,” group managing director John Moloney said.