Commercial co-operative The Irish Dairy Board (IDB) posted a 7% drop in annual turnover today (23 April), hurt by highly priced stock and a “dramatic” fall in milk prices.

Turnover for the period dipped to EUR2.09bn (US$2.73bn) for 2008, down from EUR2.10bn on the previous year.

The board said that the “dramatic” fall in milk prices, both in Ireland and internationally, has been “unprecedented” and is likely to continue at least until the third quarter of 2009.

The group also posted a drop in operating surplus to EUR24.3m from EUR34.78 in the previous year.

Despite the “difficulties”, chairman Michael Cronin said the market fundamentals remain “positive”.

“Demand for dairy products will continue to grow and, as a producer of natural quality products, Ireland is well placed to exploit this. The Irish Dairy Board, in turn, is strongly focused on the creation of new business opportunities. We are developing increasingly diversified routes to market and we have the international experience, scale, and resources to continually add value,” Cronin said.

Cronin said that “price instability” will be a feature of its business “for the foreseeable future” and that its policy makers must “remain vigilant and mindful of their obligations to the industry”, with more “limited” resources at their disposal.