NI dairy farmers must ‘get off their knees and rebel against the way they have been treated’

There has been a positive response to a letter which appeared in last week’s Farming Life, calling for the establishment of a Northern Ireland Dairy Farm Association.

East Antrim dairy farmer, David Campbell, is proposing the creation of an association to act as a dedicated lobby and action organisation to defend and promote the sector.

Mr Campbell said Northern Ireland’s dairy farmers must “get off their knees” and rebel against the way they have been treated.

He said “exceptional times call for exceptional measures” and urged Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots, along with Economy Minister, Gordon Lyons, to call in the representatives of the main processors and retailers, and demand an immediate rise in the price of all dairy-related commodities, to reflect a 5p per litre increase in the price of milk paid to primary producers across Northern Ireland.

“The recent price increases affecting all aspects of dairy production have caused real uncertainty about the viability of many of our farms, particularly those who have borrowed to invest heavily in new dairy technology, buildings, and bloodstock,” Mr Campbell said.

“In the absence of intervention it would take very little more, say a significant rise in interest rates to match rising inflation, to cause a financial crisis across the industry.

“Sadly our processors and retailers continue to deliberately ignore this peril and have not responded with any meaningful increase in milk prices.”

Mr Campbell said it is “particularly iniquitous” that the main co-operatives, which are “meant to be governed by dairy farmers”, remain “silent and unresponsive to this growing crisis”.

Referring to the much-needed price rise, Mr Campbell added: “If this can be accommodated within existing profit margins then so much the better, but if a modest price increase in milk and related products has to be borne by the consumer, I feel it will be understood as essential.

“If this means the renegotiation of contracts then so be it. Exceptional times call for exceptional measures.”

He continued: “If there is a refusal from the processing and retail sectors to assist then they should be named and shamed, and our politicians must then consider bringing in statutory price regulation measures in the next assembly mandate.

“Our dairy sector is the backbone of our main industry in Northern Ireland. Our dairy farmers must get off their knees and rebel against the way they have been treated since the deregulation of the industry some thirty years ago,” he stated.

Mr Campbell is inviting any dairy farmer who is willing to help with the establishment of an association to contact him via email: [email protected]

“Our families and children’s futures are at stake,” he concluded.