Dairy farming in NI unsustainable as milk costs more to produce than farmers are paid: UFU

Dairy cows. Photo: Allan HutchingsDairy cows. Photo: Allan Hutchings
Dairy cows. Photo: Allan Hutchings
​If Northern Ireland farmers are not paid more for their milk then it “simply won’t pay to be in dairy farming,” an MLA has warned.

Claire Sugden was commenting after the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) said many dairy farmers are “delivering milk below the cost of production”.​

In a statement on Thursday, the UFU said the “gap in the base milk price here compared to the rest of the UK and the EU” cannot be justified.

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Speaking following a COPA-COGECA farm lobby meeting in Brussels this week, UFU dairy committee vice-chair Cyril Orr said the meeting was a meeting was “an opportunity to represent dairy farmers in the UK and raise the shared challenges facing the industry,” and added: “The UFU highlighted particular issues including TB, the local climate action plan and the impact of the ammonia strategy.

Dairy cows. Photo: Cliff DonaldsonDairy cows. Photo: Cliff Donaldson
Dairy cows. Photo: Cliff Donaldson

"But it was the dramatic drop in the milk prices and the widening gap hitting farmers in Northern Ireland that was the stark takeaway message. We now seriously lag behind the industry in Great Britain, let alone the EU”.

East Londonderry MLA Ms Sugden said dairy farming in Northern Ireland “is becoming unsustainable as many farmers continue to lose money for every litre of milk they produce”.

She said: “Many farmers are not even making enough to cover production costs, let alone make any profit.

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“No business can survive those kind of economics – in which farmers here receive the second lowest price in Europe for their milk.

“With retail prices continuing to increase and production costs decreasing since 2022 you would expect farmers to be making more, not less.

"Something in the milk supply chain has gone very wrong and needs remedied as soon as possible so that farmers are paid a fair price.”

Ms Sugden said milk producers “are already being hit hard by high interest rates,” and added: “If these financial pressures aren’t resolved soon then it simply won’t pay to be in dairy farming – one of Northern Ireland’s biggest industries.”

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UFU representative Mr Orr said: “When compared to individual EU member states, Northern Ireland has the second lowest milk price in Europe… this is clearly not sustainable, given all the many challenges the industry faces”.