MLA Irwin calls for fair dairy prices

Newry & Armagh DUP Assemblyman William Irwin MLA has said that whilst margins are again tightening in the dairy sector, processors must ensure farmers receive a fair price for their product.

Mr Irwin said: “We have heard a lot in recent days about Brexit and the road ahead for agriculture and with differing opinions, one major issue remains the same, the gap between what the farmer receives and the price the consumer pays for the product.

“Farmers are well used to an uneven playing field in terms of competing in the agri-food market place and indeed many farmers are only recovering from the last major downturn in pricing in dairy production. From the last downturn in milk prices production input prices have also continued to rise and that is adding to this squeeze on margins for the farmer. It must also be remembered this significant and lengthy crisis occurred when any thought of Brexit was in its infancy.

“Agri-food is a global marketplace and subject to global market changes which have positive or negative knock-on effects. The dairy industry is a massive player in Northern Ireland in terms of economics and has an annual turnover exceeding £900million and the wider agri-food sector employs in the region of 100,000 people and shows just how vital it is to our local economy.

“There is a still a vast importance attached to continuing to apply pressure to processors and retailers to offer a much better price and see this filtering back to the farmer. Dairy produce has never been more popular and the health benefits are well publicised. A greater return for farmers especially at this time is therefore essential. It is unreasonable that the person at the beginning of the chain is treated unfairly while those further up enjoy the benefits of the farmer’s hard work.”