Ulster Farmers’ Union dairy chairman, William Irvine, says confirmation that the EU milk production reduction scheme was under-utilised will not surprise most dairy farmers.
However, he says any unspent funds must still be used to support the dairy industry through a recovery that remains fragile.
His comments followed confirmation from the European Commission that the scheme would be under-spent by around 20 per cent. This emerged at a meeting in Brussels of the European farm lobby organisation COPA-COGECA’s dairy working party. Mr Irvine also represented the UK farm unions at a Commission stakeholders meeting on dairy and other issues.
“The uptake of the voluntary milk reduction scheme has fallen well short of what was originally expected,” says Mr Irvine.
In Northern Ireland, 25 per cent of the funds remain unspent. At the time the scheme was launched, the UFU argued that dairy farmers needed support from the EU, but questioned the effectiveness of doing this by cutting production.
“Our assessment has been proved correct. When the scheme was introduced production was already falling and the market was starting to turn. That we now face an under-spend and the prospect of losing this financial support is a big disappointment. This money was set aside to help dairy farmers and we still want to see it used for that,” said Mr Irvine.