TUV leader Jim Allister has expressed disappointment over the Economy minister’s refusal to contemplate imposing social clauses in grants from Invest NI to the milk processing sector, which would require an uplift in the price paid to producers as a condition of the grant.
Mr Allister explained: “A key purpose in government grants to milk processors is to increase their efficiency and thereby the processor enhances its profitability.
“Yet, within the chain of producer, processor, wholesaler and retailer the one link which is bereft of help is the producer. Since government grants assist the profitability of processors, it seems to me equitable to attach a price tag to that assistance that would require a corresponding uplift in the price paid to producers.
“Recent answers to my Assembly questions show that the milk processors have benefitted from £4m of Invest NI grants in the last five years. There has been no trickle down benefit to the hard-pressed producers. Hence my plea to Simon Hamilton to attach a social clause to such grants in the future so as to guarantee a knock-on benefit to the producers, without whom there would be no profitable processors.
“I am disappointed that the minister has rejected the suggestion and is set to continue handouts to processors with no obligation on them to aid the plight of the producers.”
In response to Mr Allister’s questions, the Minister revealed that Invest NI has offered £4,080,831 in financial assistance over the past five years and continues to support dairy processors through a number of schemes and programmes including Selective Financial Assistance, Growth Accelerator Programme and Grant for R&D, plus providing advice and technical assistance.
Mr Hamilton said no consideration has been given to attaching social clauses to Letters of Offer for the milk processing sector.
“The price paid to milk producers is a commercial arrangement between processors and producers, and is often dictated by complex global market forces. I do not intend to introduce social clauses to grants to the milk processing sector,” he added.