Newry & Armagh DUP Assemblyman and Chair of the Stormont Agriculture Committee William Irwin MLA has again spoken of his unease at the outlook for the dairy industry.
Mr Irwin referred to recent press coverage across mainland UK where prices continue to slide downwards and has called for a co-ordinated effort to address the current difficulties facing the sector.
He stated: “The dairy industry is a key player within the Northern Ireland agri-food sector and is a valued and important contributor to the Northern Ireland economy. The current crisis shows no signs of immediate improvement and this is worrying the entire sector. Prices have plummeted by 30% compared to the same period last year and most farmers now find themselves in a loss making situation.”
He added: “Both dairy farmers and processors are facing unprecedented difficulties and the Russian import ban, coupled with an over-supply of milk due to favourable weather boosting production right across the UK, Europe and globally, this has created a ‘perfect storm’.
“Given the current situation, it is vital that every effort is made to impress upon the structures within the EU the seriousness of this crisis. There is a clear need for a realistic price for intervention stocks for processors along with the securing of export refunds and along with Diane Dodds MEP, I have met with processors recently who have given a very clear signal of the difficulties they are facing. As farmers we need to receive prices which at least reflect the cost of production but we also rely upon our processors being able to pay for the milk they receive.”
He concluded: “Press coverage across the UK mainland has indicated real difficulties in the processing and dairy sectors there, with experts stating that many dairy farmers will leave the industry. Northern Ireland was the first region to experience the current market difficulties however it is now clear that the industry is under pressure right across the UK, something which requires a co-ordinated response from both the industry and Government.
“I will be continuing to liaise with my MEP and MP colleagues to ensure that the matter continues to be pushed up the agenda given the seriousness of the situation facing the entire dairy sector.”