Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson has written to the DEFRA Secretary of State Liz Truss MP to outline concerns about the possible implications of mandatory country of origin labelling for dairy products for local dairy farmers.
Mr Nicholson said: “The European Commission recently published a report on mandatory country of origin labelling for dairy products but concluded that a voluntary labelling approach would be preferable. The debate about the best arrangement continues however.
“Northern Ireland is of course unique in that it is the only part of the UK with a border with another Member State. We saw the impact of labelling rules on the beef trade last year and the new rules regarding lamb are currently impacting upon our sheep farmers.
“Many farmers here are supplying milk to southern processors. In addition Northern Ireland is the second biggest dairy producing region in the UK.
“As the Defra Secretary of State represents the UK as a whole at the negotiating table in Brussels where these issues are agreed, it is therefore vital that Ms. Truss is fully aware of our circumstances and the possible consequences of mandatory labelling rules on the dairy sector here.
“There is sufficient flexibility to devise a voluntary arrangement, one that would provide information for consumers without disrupting trade. It is absolutely vital that the DEFRA Secretary of State understands the realities of the dairy industry here and the possible consequences of a mandatory approach to labelling.”