Meeting the Brexit challenge is the dairy industry’s main priority

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Preparing for Brexit is the top priority for the milk processing sector at the present time, according to Dairy Council for Northern Ireland’s chief executive Dr Mike Johnston.

“Getting to grips with volatility is another,” he added.

“But there is evidence to show that both processors and farmers are better placed to deal with volatility now, than was the case a couple of years ago.”

Mr Johnston added that processors would be prepared to look at new producer pricing systems, including those which put more emphasis on milk components.

“But this is a longer term issue for consideration, given the critical importance of having effective Brexit strategies in place for the dairy industry as a whole.”

Mr Johnston was commenting in the wake of the Dairy Council securing £3.37m of EU funding. The monies will allow it to undertake export support and sustainability programmes both at home and abroad over the next three years.

Funding for two of the programmes will be to support the promotion of dairy product exports to countries in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, while funding for the third programme is for a joint programme that will run through the European Milk Forum to promote the dairy industry’s sustainability.

“Based on the success of the Dairy Council’s current Third Country Export Programme, we applied for further funding to continue our work in supporting dairy product exports in two key regions,” said Johnston.

“Approval of €1,117, 325 has been given for work in the Middle East, particularly in Saudi Arabia and UAE while €1,953,127 has been allocated to work over three years in seven countries in Southeast Asia.

“Additionally, €303.3k of funding has been approved by the European Milk Forum to fund a three year sustainability programme.

“As with the export programmes where 80% will be provided by the EU and the remaining 20% supplied by the Dairy Council, so too will the sustainability programme receive 80% of funding from the European Milk Forum with the remainder being made up by ourselves.”

Mr Johnston confirmed that the UK government has committed to maintain the requisite funding measures in place, regarding all previously agreed EU-supported research projects, once Brexit becomes a reality.

The new export programmes will build on the work done to date with inward missions allowing dairy companies to meet buyers in their own countries, the programme will also facilitate participation by dairy companies in Gulfood and SIAL China, two of the main international trade fairs in these areas,

Mr Johnston concluded: “We have had great success to date with the export programme that has run over the last three years. Indeed, we have been able to demonstrate export sales of Northern Ireland dairy products of almost £7m as a direct result of the programme.”