The ongoing dairy crisis has placed not only generations of local farms in jeopardy but a market sector, the FSB warns.
Last weekend, FSB National Chairman John Allan paid a visit to members who are dairy farmers in Counties Tyrone and Antrim, prior to the emergency agriculture summit in London.
One of the farms visited was that of Roderick Swann, who along with his son, Jonathan and grandson, Alexander outlined the financial and personal costs the ongoing crisis is having on local families and communities, including his own family who are fifth generation dairy farmers.
Mr Swann explained: “Farms which have been built up over generations are in danger of having to be part sold and inadequately maintained due to the current financial crisis.
“The future of dairying, which is so important to our economy, is severely under pressure. If young farming families are forced out, then Northern Ireland is in danger of losing one of its most important industries.
“It is particularly sad to see young farming families taking such a battering and selling cattle is no longer the answer as their value has dropped dramatically during this crisis.”
With the average price of milk ranging in estimates from 27 to 32 pence to produce and farmers being paid 24 pence per litre, Alistair Rennie, a dairy farmer and FSB member from County Tyrone outlines how currently dairy farmers are working at an automatic loss.
“Selling milk at a lower price than it costs to produce means that as dairy farmers, we are working longer hours to still end up making a loss on each litre sold.
“ In any other industry, this would be instantly recognised as poor business sense and many would cut their losses and walk away.
“However, this is not an option you wish to take when your livelihood is a farm that has been built up over generations of your own family,” Mr Rennie concluded.
Mr John Allan, FSB National Chairman has highlighted the necessity of a long-term strategy to ensure survival of the agricultural industry.
He explained: “Dairy farmers should be attaining a fair price for their product, to ensure continuance of a high quality, traceable product.
“This is an issue that will have an impact across the economy. Dairy farming is intrinsic to the local economy, with one in four small businesses locally classified as agri-businesses according to recent Ulster Bank figures.
“The UK Government needs to do more to protect our dairy and the long-term viability of this critical industry.”