Dairy farmers in line for £2,000?

It has been estimated that the majority of milk producers in Northern Ireland are eligible for the EU's Small Scale Dairy Farmer Scheme, the applications for which must be submitted to the Rural Payments Agency by the end of this month.

According to industry commentators, an average payment of £2,000 could be availed of by farmers who submit an application. This is based on an estimated fund of £2m and an application trawl of 1,000 producers.

Holstein UK has welcomed the roll out of the aid package.

A spokesperson said: “We welcome the announcement by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) to divert a portion of the £4.1m European Adjustment Aid to small dairy farmers in Northern Ireland.”

“However, the deadline for applications is fast approaching. This aid package had been announced by Commissioner Hogan in July 2016 to be used as relief to hard pressed dairy farmers in addition to the €150m Production Reduction Scheme.”

The Small Scale Dairy Farmer Scheme is being delivered by the Rural Payments Agency on behalf of DAERA. Producers can apply for this scheme if both of the following criteria apply: they had an annual cows’ milk production of up to and including 1,000,000 litres (or equivalent in kilograms) during the period 1 April 2015 to 31 March 2016 and they are still active in cows’ milk production.

Payment will be on a pence per litre basis, capped at 500,000 litres of supply. Farmers should fill in a Small Dairy Farmers Scheme NI application form. Holstein UK has also confirmed that it is providing an advisory service for producers wishing to apply for the aid scheme, operating from its new offices in Dungannon mart.

The organisation has also welcomed the recent vote of the European Parliament’s Agricultural Committee to support the introduction of a Voluntary Milk Reduction Scheme as part of the policy ‘toolbox’ or permanent crisis instrument to be deployed in the event of price falling below an agreed level.

With the forthcoming Brexit negotiations, to which no clear outcome is evident, Holstein UK points out that it is now all the more important for local milk producers that a sustainable dairy policy is in place throughout the rest of Europe.

Meanwhile, world dairy markets continue to strengthen. This week saw the price index recorded at the latest Global Dairy Trade (GDT) event in New Zealand climb by 3.2% This is the fifth consecutive hike in prices recorded at the auction. Skimmed Milk Powder (SMP) and Whole Milk Powder (WMP) quotes recorded increases of 1% and 1.3% respectively.

The Butter index saw the highest increase of 11.2%, while the price index for Butter Milk Powder (BMP) rose by 7%. The cheddar cheese index increased, marginally, by 0.6%.

Commenting, MEP Diane Dodds said: “This week brought the welcome news of the fifth consecutive increase in the global dairy trade auction, with an overall price increase of 3.2%.

“When you examine the increases closely the biggest improvement is in butter prices but important for Northern Ireland has been the 1% increase in skim milk powder prices which have been sluggish in recent auctions. Many of our processors have held April milk prices at 25 or 25.5ppl. This is a positive development especially entering the summer months.

“It is important that the market returns as much as possible given that many farmers are still paying off debt accumulated as a result of poor prices over the past number of years.”