Ulster Farmers’ Union dairy policy committee chairman Jonathan Moore, vice chairman William Irvine and senior policy officer Chris Osborne have met with George Eustice MP Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, to once again call for support from the UK government on a review of the EU’s pricing mechanism for intervention.
The meeting was facilitated by MP and Northern Ireland representative on the EFRA Committee, Margaret Ritchie.
Mr Moore described the meeting as very constructive.
He said: “In line with government policy, Mr Eustice was apprehensive on market support measures such as dairy intervention, yet we pressed once again for UK support on a review of threshold levels,” he added.
“He was however sympathetic of the fact that intervention is the only safety net available to the dairy market.
“The minister was enthusiastic about the possible role of futures markets in milk pricing post quota abolition, and Mr Eustice agreed to work with the dairy industry to look at how these might work. This is a policy area that the UFU will be reviewing going forward.
“We also discussed the operation of the European Milk Market Observatory and we were pleased that he took on board our concerns that the latest member state dairy submission from the UK did not include pricing information specific to Northern Ireland and agreed to ensure that Northern Ireland pricing information would be included in future.”
Mr Moore concluded: “Following the meeting we also attended the launch of the UK’s Dairy All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) report, ‘The Sustainable Competitiveness of the UK Dairy Industry’ in the House of Commons, which outlines recommendations to ensure a sustainable and competitive future for the UK dairy industry.
“Some of the recommendations include: an immediate review of intervention prices by the European Commission, the development of futures markets and the development of export opportunities as well as mandatory Country of Origin Labelling.
“The report also stresses the importance of addressing misconceptions around dairy and promoting the economic and nutritional benefits.
“This report recognises some of the crucial steps that the government need to take to support the dairy industry.”
Speaking after the meeting, South Down MP, Margaret Ritchie said the farmers representing the dairy sector laid out in very stark robust terms the problems and challenges which they and their colleagues have faced over the last 12 months in relation to the whole area of price volatility.
She added: “As a result of the fruitful engagement with representatives from the dairy sector of the Ulster Farmers’ Union, undoubtedly Minister Eustice was made very acutely aware of the pricing and income challenges faced by dairy farmers in Northern Ireland.
“Furthermore, such matters will be pursued with the minister and his colleagues on an ongoing basis to ensure that financial easements are realised for those farmers involved in the dairy sector.”