Grocery Code Adjudicator could play role: MLA

ULSTER Unionist MLA Sandra Overend has said that there must be an equitable solution found for Northern Ireland’s dairy farmers or else the industry runs the risk of being strangled by low prices.

Mrs Overend commented after she listened to the concerns from members of the Farmers for Action group, who held a protest at Dunman Plant near Cookstown.

The Mid-Ulster MLA said: “Whilst Thursday’s increase in the milk auction, 25.04ppl to 26.22ppl, is to be welcomed we must remember that the exact same auction last year produced results of 29.53ppl. Therefore whilst milk prices may be rising from their cripplingly low 22ppl only a few months ago, they still have much further to go to simply match last year’s prices.

“Having met with a number of local dairy farmers on Wednesday I was left in no doubt the immense financial pressure which these farmers find themselves under.

“This has not been an easy summer for our dairy farmers or indeed for any farmers really. Wet weather here in Northern Ireland is still severely hampering the lifting of silage and the price of fuel, feed and fertiliser is still greatly troubled by global events. The autumn and winter season is set to bring more difficult times for all our farmers.

“Whilst the milk auction effectively determines milk prices in Northern Ireland I believe that work must be done to identify whether there are any additional areas for exploration which may enable farmers to be paid a fair price. Farmers are not calling for consumers to pay more for a pint of milk but rather that some of the commercial margins are reviewed to ensure that everyone is getting a fair share of the price.”

She concluded: “I am pleased that the Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill appears to be progressing smoothly and that it will be considered in the House of Commons after the summer recess. Last month at the Royal Welsh Show there was a voluntary code of practice between farmers and buyers on milk prices was agreed and if the bill were to be amended to include it then I do believe it could be crucial in ensuring a fair playing field between farmers, producers, retailers and consumers.”