Prime Minister David Cameron has been urged to step in to help the beleaguered Northern Irish dairy farmers facing their “worst crisis in living memory”.
As more than 200 milk producers picketed Stormont yesterday, the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) said it was seeking an urgent meeting with the PM to discuss the devastating impact of falling milk prices.
“We feel that the situation is that severe, David Cameron needs to be considering this as well.”Chris Osborne UFU senior policy officer
The protest was timed to coincide with an emergency meeting of MLAs responsible for scrutinising the department of agriculture.
Chris Osborne, UFU senior policy officer, told Stormont’s agriculture committee: “We feel that the situation is that severe, David Cameron needs to be considering this as well. We are getting quite frustrated about the lack of action on the part of Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs).”
The farmers claim the continued decline in milk prices means production costs can no longer be met, and that many will go out of business if the EU Commission does not act. Mr Osborne said milk prices in Northern Ireland were the seventh worst in Europe, behind Latvia and a number of the Balkan states.
He added: “I have been in this job since 2009 and this is the third crisis we have faced. This trough is the deepest in living memory and I can see it not ending any time soon.”
Agriculture minister Michelle O’Neill said: “I will continue to meet with farmers to listen and I am concerned about what I have heard. I have been calling on my other ministers in the other devolved administrations to work with me to apply pressure for effective EU support. I firmly believe that we can face these challenges if we work together.”