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Limerick And The Irish Butter Trade |

Limerick And The Irish Butter Trade

An insightful article in the recent issue of the “Grocers’ Review” delves into the Irish Butter Trade in 1903 and its prospects for 1904. The author, Mr Robert Gibson, a knowledgeable figure in the trade hailing from Limerick, provides valuable insights based on his extensive experience. His observations warrant attention and consideration due to his practical expertise.

Mr Gibson describes the past year as a paradoxical one for Irish agriculture, with striking differences from its counterpart in 1879. Unlike in 1879, the rainfall did not wash away all the nutrients from the grass. In that year, crops and cattle perished, compelling Irish farmers to endure harsh conditions and endure exploitative relationships with landlords and usurers, even while they themselves suffered from the effects of uncontrollable climatic factors.

Butter quality deteriorated rapidly, but according to Mr Gibson, who has spent forty-five years in the trade, he has witnessed both the best and worst butter produced in Ireland in 1903. Some farms experienced an unusually large butter yield, particularly those on well-drained and well-sheltered lands, while others yielded considerably less on low-lying lands.

Mr Gibson estimates the total Irish butter production in 1903 to be around 73,000 tons. Assessing its value proves challenging, but the market prices for each grade remained remarkably stable, which can be attributed to the impact of cold storage and Russian supplies. Regarding prices, Mr Gibson suggests that Irish creamery butter sold at wholesale averaged between 96s and 98s per cwt in 1903, while ordinary cream from farmers’ produce ranged from 84s to 88s per cwt.

Mr Gibson makes reference to a 1689 Act passed by the Irish Parliament to combat fraudulent butter packaging, acknowledging the negative consequences it had on the reputation and marketability of Irish butter abroad. Regrettably, Mr Gibson observes that the butter trade continues to suffer from similar problems, with the Department of Agriculture being aware of these fraudulent practices yet failing to address them. He states without hesitation that the poor packaging of Irish butter is responsible for much of the unfavorable perception in certain regions.

In the seventeenth century, offenders were publicly punished, subjected to the stocks, pelted with rotten eggs to disgrace them for tarnishing their country’s name, and fined. Mr Gibson suggests that similar penalties should be enforced today. The outlook for the Irish butter industry in 1904 appears exceedingly bleak, with the land and cattle in a dire state. Rotted hay and undernourished cattle indicate a limited spring butter production of inferior quality. However, considering the unexpected turn of events in 1903, one can hope that the bleak prospects for 1904 may brighten as the year progresses. In the meantime, producers must ensure their cattle are well-housed, fed adequately despite adverse circumstances, and kept dry and warm, with the expectation that the current outlook will improve for both the cattle and the quality of butter.

Kerry News – Wednesday 13 January 1904

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