Billions of euro will haemorrhage out of rural Ireland if the European Commission doesn’t grant approval for the continuation of the nitrates derogation, Dairy Industry Ireland (DII) director Conor Mulvihill has said.

Mulvihill was in front of the Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture last Wednesday evening alongside Pat Sheahan, chair of DII, as well as representatives from Dairygold, Tirlán, Kerry and Meat Industry Ireland.

The committee was told that the dairy industry was worth €17.4bn to the Irish economy in 2023, but was also warned that falling milk volumes pose a threat to the industry.

“Ireland, which is the jewel in the crown of Europe’s dairy economy as a grass-fed outdoor, family farm based economy, is now haemorrhaging milk,” Mulvihill said.

The loss of the derogation, he said, has been portrayed in some quarters as a “dairy issue”, but he warned that if the derogation is not retained it will be “an Ireland Inc issue”.

“We do not want to be in the situation where billions [of euro]are haemorrhaging out of rural Ireland because that is what is manifesting.

“Water quality in Ireland is third in the EU let’s not forget. Irish water quality is very good, we want it to improve, we want it to be number one.

“If we can do that, we can keep that dairy renaissance that has kept a social and economic renaissance over rural Ireland for the last decade and we can be key exporters back into those key economies like France,” he said.

A 10-point action plan was presented to the committee with the goal of securing European Commission approval for the continuation of Ireland’s nitrates derogation.

It includes measures such as establishing nutrient use scores for farmers and finalising an independent economic impact assessment on the effect of changes to the nitrates derogation.

DII called for the action plan to be fully resourced and driven by Government.