High exports and firm prices in 2004 have helped the Irish Dairy Board raise turnover by 5%, IFA National Dairy Committee Chairman Michael Murphy said today.

Mr Murphy welcomed the payment of cash bonuses worth a total of €15m to co-ops which supply the Board, half of which is to be paid this week, the other half in the Spring.

The bonuses are worth around 3c a gallon to the co-ops that trade through the Board.

Commenting on the strong performance of the IDB, Michael Murphy said it was indicative of how the industry as a whole would have performed this year.

He said it vindicated his view throughout the year that market returns to co-ops performed well during 2004, and that the constant talking down of prices by some co-ops was totally unjustified.

'The lesson of 2004 is that price decisions should not be made based on the worse-case CAP reform scenario, but rather on real market out-turns and improved efficiencies by all processors,' he said.

'Present indications are that the relative shortages of product on world and EU markets will continue into 2005, and the current stable situation will hold.  Co-ops should now be planning to hold prices for the spring,' he concluded.