The future of Ireland's most important dairy market has been dealt a blow as the UK government is advising consumers to reduce the levels of dairy in their diets,

The British Government this week launched its Eatwell guide, which recommended half the amount of dairy products in the nation's diet compared to previous years (15% down to 8%).

The guide also tells consumers to consume 'dairy alternatives' and lower-fat dairy options.

Here in Ireland, the Department of Health recommends that adults eat three servings of dairy per day.

The decision by the British Government has been slammed by stakeholders in the dairy industry.

Dr Judith Bryans, Chief Executive of Dairy UK described the move as both 'baffling and disappointing'.

"In the UK, dietary guidelines disregard an ever-growing body of robust, science-based evidence which stresses the importance of dairy consumption at all ages.

"It is genuinely disconcerting to see that the dairy food group being disadvantaged by a public health campaign.

"At a time when obesity is a real crisis for children and adults alike, nutrient-dense whole foods such as dairy products should be put front and centre in dietary guidelines.

"Furthermore, dairy products are used in 98% of homes around the UK and only yesterday the Chancellor in his Budget speech excluded dairy products from the sugar tax," she said.

According to Bryans, a long list of countries such as France, Canada, Australia and many more, have had successful three-a-day dairy consumption programmes for years, which all emphasise the importance of dairy foods.

The UK remains a key market for Irish dairy exports accounting for almost one third of the total. A decline of 4% was recorded in the value of exports in 2015 at an estimated €960m.

Declines in cheese, SMP and WMP exports were offset somewhat by some increase in butter and specialised nutritional dairy powder exports. The value of trade was helped by a more favourable euro/Sterling exchange rate.