‘Measures will not address root problems’

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DUP MEP Diane Dodds has said the EU has failed to take the necessary steps to deliver real and meaningful assistance to Northern Ireland’s farming industry amid an ongoing crisis caused by low farm gate prices.

Mrs Dodds spoke after the Global Dairy trade Auction posted a drop in dairy product prices of 2.9%.

She said: “Yesterday’s Farm Council was an opportunity for the European Union to finally recognise that farmers are in the depth of an unprecedented crisis, that they need help and they need help now.

“While the Brussels spin machine has painted the outcomes of the meeting as positive and a means to helping farmers’ incomes, the reality is that they will not make one iota of difference to those in immediate crisis.

“The Commission announced a range of measures that they believe can deal with medium to long term issues, but much of what was announced was the recycling of proposals already brought forward by the Commissioner for Agriculture, Phil Hogan.

The only fresh thinking is the possibility of voluntary supply management but given the voluntary nature of this proposal and the scant level of detail around it, the industry will find it difficult to buy in to reducing production especially at time rightly or wrongly when many farmers are cashing litres to maintain cash flow.

“Indeed, given the increase in production by a number of member states after the abolition of quotas, not least in the Irish Republic where production has increased by 13.3% in 2015 compared to 2014. The success of such a move relies upon getting support right across Europe to have any real benefit and it is difficult to see that happening at this point in time.

“In the announcements made the most positive short term fix which I lobbied the Commission heavily on was the need to extend the ceiling limits for intervention. I am pleased that the Commission took my concerns on board and delivered a short term reprieve for the dairy industry. The consequences of moving to a tendering process for intervention products would have allowed a race to the bottom for farm gate prices.

“The Commission must continue to monitor the tonnage of product being made available for intervention and ensure the necessary steps are taken.”

She added: “Farmers across Northern Ireland are working hard to stay afloat and I have no doubt that they will look at Brussels, at their lack of action, and be wholly dismayed at the complete absence of meaningful measures to tackle the root causes of this crisis. I urge the Agriculture Commissioner and Council to think again.”