The Ulster Farmers’ Union has responded to reports that LacPatrick producers will not be paid their promised bonus this month.
UFU president Ivor Ferguson (pictured)said this comes on top of a penny per litre reduction in LacPatrick’s base price.
“This is a double blow for already unsettled suppliers, who only last month experienced issues over their monthly milk cheques,” he said.
These problems are emerging as the merger between LacPatrick and Lakeland reaches the end game. The UFU describes events as ‘worrying’ for farmers that supply the business.
“It seems LacPatrick members are paying for previous mistakes and that banks are now influencing the milk price, leaving a bad taste in the value banks attach to the family farm businesses. It is unfair that LacPatrick Cooperative members should have to pay for past mistakes,” said Mr Ferguson.
The UFU says that in October it was assured by LacPatrick that everything was in place for a smooth transition to the merger, with the only issue the wait for formal approval from UK and Irish competition authorities.
The UFU stresses that the seasonal bonus is a structural tool. Milk has been produced in the knowledge that this payment would be paid, and farmers have already factored it into their own cash flows and business decisions. This payment is needed to underpin costs in what will be a costly winter for all dairy farmers, because of pressure on fodder stocks and high feed prices.
“Now we are concerned about the widening price gap for LacPatrick suppliers – not only against other milk buyers but when set against Lakeland prices in the run up to the merger,” said the UFU president.
He urged the banks involved to play fair by allowing the bonus payments to be released.
“As a business about to merge, which is seeking goodwill from farmers, LacPatrick and the banks needs to steady the ship now to ensure that its members see a fair return for the milk they are producing,” said Mr Ferguson.