ASDA has confirmed to its Northern Ireland milk supplier, Dale Farm, that it is to pay 28ppl for liquid milk supplies from Monday August 17 onwards.
This is in line with similar steps taken by the supermarket in other parts of the UK. The move has been made to assist farmers during the current crisis.
An ASDA spokesperson said: “Asda’s origins are in dairy farming, which is why we are acting in the best interests of our farmers and our customers by increasing the price we pay and not passing on any of the costs to customers: our retail price in Asda’s Northern Ireland stores stays the same.”
Responding to this development Ulster Farmers’ Union president Ian Marshall said that the decision taken by ASDA was a step in the right direction.
“Consumers continue to have access to high quality locally produced food and it also recognises that farmers need a fair price to produce what consumers and retailers want. The challenge now is to extend this to other retailers and to products other than liquid milk – but it would be churlish on our part not to recognise that ASDA has set a welcome trend that we would like to see other retailers and indeed the food service sector follow.”
The announcement by ASDA coincides with UK-wide efforts by farm lobby organisations, including the UFU, to push the issue of self-sufficiency for UK food up the political agenda. Margin pressure as a result of aggressive pricing has been forcing farmers out of business across the UK, and as things stand the UK only has the capacity to be self-sufficient in food for just over eight months of the year.
Part of this campaign will be to convince retailers that contracts based on a fair price for farmers, such as the liquid milk model, will be good for the agricultural industry, good for retailers, and good for consumers. There is ample evidence that consumers support the concept of ‘fair play’ and value the continued supply of locally produced food.
SDLP South Down MP Margaret Ritchie has welcomed the intervention from Asda.
Ms Ritchie warned however that further intervention would be needed to support Northern Ireland farmers who sell 85% of dairy products in powder or cheese form.
She said: “I want to welcome this very positive step from Asda. Increasing the price they pay to farmers for milk will certainly help during the current crisis across the industry and I hope that other supermarkets will promote similar initiatives.
“It’s important, though, that this isn’t seen as a lasting resolution. Farmers in the North export 85% of their milk product in powder and cheese form, which will not benefit from this increase. That’s why we need targeted intervention.
“I will continue to pursue this with the EFRA committee which has been recalled at my request to consider what action can be taken to help our dairy farmers at this difficult time.”