DUP MEP Diane Dodds has vented frustration at the lack of action been taken by the EU Agriculture Commissioner, Phil Hogan, to address the crippling milk prices facing farmers in Northern Ireland and across Europe.
Confirming that she has requested a meeting with the Commissioner, DUP MEP Diane Dodds said: “It is a sad indictment that Phil Hogan has sat back for so long knowing that the current crisis facing the dairy sector was coming and yet did not nothing meaningful to engage with the industry and deliver on the safety nets it requires.
“Given that most dairy processors in Northern Ireland paid a base price of around 20 pence per litre for May milk, with an estimated average production cost of 26 ppl, it is not hard to see the pain dairy farmers are facing – unless you are Phil Hogan it would seem.
“The milk price has undoubtedly been dealt another blow, with both the Fonterra Global Dairy Trade and the Dutch Dairy Auction showing sharp price reductions.
“Whole and skimmed milk powder have suffered significantly with SMP prices heading towards intervention levels.
“If Commissioner Hogan does not believe the markets - or indeed what farmers are telling him on the ground - perhaps some analysis of the EU Milk Observatory figures would be helpful.
“The MMO has indicated that milk prices have now been below the operating costs of the average dairy farm across the EU since October 2014.
“This begs the question; how long will Phil Hogan allow the pain to continue?
“I believe the Commission is holding back on doing anything for a number of reasons, but in the main they are waiting for product to be placed in intervention and for milk production to reduce.
“Unfortunately, however, the Commission has not taken into account that milk production is not like a tap which can be turned on and off. Other factors have been given the push by the Commission to increase production through the removal of milk quotas and the favourable market predictions.
“The Commissioner must now act and increase the intervention price to a level which is closer to the cost of production, to act as a proper safety net as a matter of urgency.
“The outworking of this will be to take product off the market, rebalancing supply and demand while ensuring a bottom is put in the market.
“Tools to improve the short-term outlook should be the Commissioner’s priority at this stage.”
Meanwhile, Newry and Armagh DUP Assemblyman and chairman of Stormont’s Agriculture Committee William Irwin MLA has raised his concern at the further decline in milk prices.
Mr Irwin was speaking following the latest Fonterra milk price auction where prices again tumbled a further 5.9% which will add further to the pressure on producers.
Mr Irwin said he has written to the EU Commissioner pressing for a realistic intervention price and he confirmed that he had also written to the DARD Minister highlighting the concerns of producers and the need for a response to the dairy crisis.
He stated: “It remains concerning that global markets are not recovering and once again we look at the Fonterra auction and see a further drop in prices, which is the eighth fall in a row at auction and that is worrying many farmers.”
He added: “The current climate for milk production is getting very precarious and many dairy farmers I speak to are getting increasingly concerned by the lack of any sense of a recovery in global markets.
“Farmers are losing money with every litre of milk produced and as anyone will realise that is simply not a sustainable position.”