Allister challenges milk processors

�Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland -17th November  2012
TUV Leader Jim Allister pictured at the annual conference at the Royal Hotel in Cookstown .
Mandatory Credit - Picture by Stephen Hamilton/Presseye.com
�Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland -17th November 2012 TUV Leader Jim Allister pictured at the annual conference at the Royal Hotel in Cookstown . Mandatory Credit - Picture by Stephen Hamilton/Presseye.com
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TUV MLA Jim Allister has raised a series of Assembly Questions probing and challenging the operation of the milk processors in Northern Ireland.

In 13 Questions to the Economy and Agriculture ministers Mr Allister has queried:

* the full extent of grant aid to the processors and why social clauses should not be attached to such public aid to ensure resulting benefits are shared with producers through an uplift in price;

* what processes are in place to ensure that milk processors which are cooperatives are living up to their commitment to pay a sustainable price to their suppliers;

* what analysis has been conducted to evaluate the price paid by milk processors for milk supplied by Northern Ireland producers and milk purchased from the Republic of Ireland and whether there is any resulting distortion of the market to the disadvantage of local producers;

* the fairness of the practice of milk processors obtaining milk supplies from local producers on a basis that the price to be paid is unknown till over a month later;

* whether there is a cartel between the processors and how far the price regime has been investigated.

Commenting Jim Allister said: “It is beyond dispute that it is the producers who are bearing the brunt of the pressure in the milk sector. In seeking relief it is important to examine the whole supply chain and it is in this context that I feel the processors require greater scrutiny. Hence my Questions to try and instil action and interest by the relevant departments.

“I sense many producers, because of their reliance on the processors, are reluctant to voice such questions, but I am under no such constraint and therefore I’m happy to open up this debate. I hope it will generate full and convincing answers.”

Mr Allister’s tabled Assembly Questions are as follows:

q To ask Economy minister to list for the past five years all grants to the milk processing sector, identifying a) the recipient; b) the amount awarded; and c) the purpose of the grant.

q To ask the Economy minister to state the extent of ongoing support to the milk processing sector.

q To ask the Economy minister whether consideration has ever been given to attaching social clauses to grants to the milk processing sector which would necessitate demonstrable increase in return to the hard pressed producers and, if not, will such consideration now be undertaken.

q To ask the Economy minister how far, if at all, is a holistic improvement in the viability of the entire milk sector considered relevant in determining grant aid applications to the milk processing sector.

q To ask the Economy minister whether he will consider including in the measurement of outcomes of grant aid to the milk processing sector a knock-on enhancement in the price paid to the producers.

q To ask the Agriculture minister if she will support including in the measurement of outcomes of grant aid to the milk processing sector a knock-on enhancement in the price paid to the producers.

q To ask the Agriculture minister if she will support Invest NI attaching social clauses to grants to the milk processing sector which would necessitate demonstrable increase in return to the hard pressed producers.

q To ask the Agriculture minister what processes are in place to ensure that milk processors which are cooperatives are living up to their commitment to pay a sustainable price to their suppliers.

q To ask the Agriculture minister what analysis has been conducted to evaluate the price paid by milk processors for milk supplied by Northern Ireland producers and milk purchased from the Republic of Ireland and whether there is any resulting distortion of the market to the disadvantage of local producers.

q To ask the Agriculture minister whether the target in ‘Going for Growth’ to increase milk production is still considered viable.

q To ask the Agriculture minister for her assessment of the fairness of the practice of milk processors obtaining milk supplies from local producers on a basis that the price to be paid is unknown till over a month later.

q To ask the Agriculture minister is there a cartel operating between the milk processors in Northern Ireland and how far has this issue been investigated.

q To ask the Economy minister to explain how grants to the milk processing sector are policed to ensure compliance with any attached conditions.