DUP MEP Diane Dodds has said that the EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan needs to bring forward immediate measures to deal with the crisis facing the industry.
Mrs Dodds made her comments following Monday’s meeting between Mr Hogan and representatives of the farming industry from Northern Ireland.
She commented: “The dairy industry in Northern Ireland has suffered a sustained drop in prices for almost a year. I have been pressing Commissioner Hogan on this issue but so far we have had some indications of measures that are valuable in the long term, but will not resolve the immediate crisis that is facing the industry.
“Structural reform, supply chain fairness and the opening up of new markets are all big issues but the most important one facing family farm businesses is a huge drop in price, largely due to oversupply and market volatility. This demands a response from the Commissioner,” she added.
“Monday’s extraordinary farm council is looming, the markets are looking for a signal from the Commission that Europe is willing to take action to support its industry. Restoring market confidence is key and one of the immediate tools that the Commission can use is the temporary, time limited raising of intervention prices.
“Once the immediate issue of price stabilisation has been resolved we can then look at measures that will help the industry to become more competitive and expand into new markets.”
Also present at the meeting was the chair of the Stormont Agriculture Committee, William Irwin MLA, who added: “It is vitally important that all bases are covered before the EU Farm Council takes place, and that we focus minds in Europe to the challenges facing all sectors of agriculture – but particularly the dairy sector – at this time.”
During a meeting in Downing Street the DUP Finance Minister Arlene Foster MLA raised the matter with the Prime Minister.
Mrs Foster said: “It is vital that we get a support package in place for the industry. There is a key decision to be made by Liz Truss the DEFRA Secretary of State and I took the opportunity to brief the Prime Minister about the situation facing the dairy industry and the importance of having proper support in place.”