The current round of dairy farmer protests outside supermarkets is serving no purpose, according to Northern Ireland Retail Consortium (NIRC) director, Aodhán Connolly.
His organisation represents the main supermarket multiples, including Tesco, ASDA, Sainsbury, Marks & Spencer and Lidl.
“All of the supermarkets have tremendous sympathy for the plight of dairy farmers at the present time,” he said.
“But retailers are not causing the current problems, associated with low farmgate prices. NIRC milk sales only account for 10% of Northern Ireland’s dairy output. The core challenges now confronting local dairy farmers are those associated with the very poor international prices for milk products. The current ban on EU food imports by Russia is also adding significant pressure in this regard.
“There is also across the board acceptance that the only way of mitigating these problems in the short term is for the EU Commission in Brussels to enhance the levels of intervention support that is available to the milk industry.”
Connolly admitted that supermarkets regularly feature liquid milk on special promotion.
“I disagree fundamentally with the term loss-leader,” he said.
“But I can confirm that the costs associated with promotions of this nature are fully absorbed by the retailers themselves. None of these costs are passed back to the primary producer.”
Connolly pointed out that the current farmer protests are, actually, serving to alienate consumers from their cause.
“There have been instances where protesters have actually blocked milk delivery lorries from off-loading at individual retail outlets,” he said.
“Surely, this is a case of farmers shooting themselves in the foot. In other instances, protestors have put the milk on sale into trolleys and then simply left these in the aisles. Again, this is doing more to annoy shoppers than it is a means of getting them to support the plight of farmers.”