Upper Bann MP David Simpson has said that DEFRA Secretary of State Liz Truss is now more sympathetic to the plight of dairy farmers in Northern Ireland, than would have been the case four weeks ago.
He made these comments after meeting Truss, along with a delegation of dairy industry representatives in London, earlier this week.
“What I can say with total assurance is that the Secretary of State accepts the fact that dairy farmers across the UK are now facing severe financial hardship,” he added,
“Earlier in the year, the general assumption had been that world dairy markets would have turned the corner towards a more upward trajectory by mid-summer. The belief now is that it could take another six to nine months for this to happen.”
But Simpson is less confident of Truss calling on EU Farm Commissioner to increase dairy intervention prices at the upcoming ‘dairy summit’ taking place in Brussels on September 7.
“It remains UK policy not to have interventionist schemes introduced in order to rectify economic problems,” he said.
“However, it is now obvious to me that Liz Truss is now more predisposed to seeking ways of providing much needed support to the dairy industry.”
William Irwin MLA, Chair of the Northern Ireland Assembly Agriculture Committee, also attended the meeting in London. He said: “Given the representations made to the Minister, I believe she understood the gravity of the crisis facing the dairy sector in Northern Ireland and the real need for immediate action.
“We reinforced the important role that the UK Government can play toward supporting an increase in intervention rates, which would alleviate some of the short-term challenges facing the industry. I reiterated the effectiveness of this tool when it was used in 2009, something which the Minister acknowledged.
“Ms Truss also highlighted her view that there seems to be no respite from the current price reductions, however this is a reality which I and my colleagues feel necessitates not only words but action.
“The Minister did, however, acknowledge the need for longer-term solutions around backing British products, labelling and dealing with volatility in the marketplace which would ultimately benefit all sectors within agriculture, and which is also a must for the future viability of agriculture.”