Union meets with dairy processors

Nick Whelan, CEO of Dale FarmNick Whelan, CEO of Dale Farm
Nick Whelan, CEO of Dale Farm
Members of the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) milk policy committee have met with the leading dairy companies Dale Farm, Glanbia Cheese and Lakeland, to discuss a range of issues facing the sector.

Speaking after the event UFU president Ivor Ferguson said: “This was the first time that the dairy processors have come together to directly engage with and hear the views of the UFU’s dairy committee. We believe that this was both constructive and mutually beneficial.

“The meeting took place on the day the UK was leaving the EU and Brexit and future trading arrangements were high on the agenda. The processors voiced cautious optimism regarding our departure from the EU but also recognised the many related challenges that still exist.”

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Red Tractor assurance is being increasingly rolled out within Northern Ireland dairying and the meeting was an opportunity to get the processing sector’s perspective on this industry standard. The UFU also gained valuable insight from the dairy companies on constituent pricing with the Union’s dairy committee repeating their view that this is a topic which should be investigated further.

The outlook for dairy markets were also discussed and the committee voiced their frustrations at the milk price they are receiving, and an honest and robust debate followed.
“The CEOs were critical of the UFU milk price indicator (MPI) and in reply we pointed out that this tool is an indicator of market trends. To avoid any future friction or misunderstanding, we agreed that we would revisit the components of the MPI in conjunction with our processors as it has been four years since it was last reviewed.
“Collaborative working is the way forward, both processors and farmers need to be getting more value for their product and therefore better returns. Improved relationships are needed to achieve this and the UFU is happy to work with our processors to collectively improve our respective circumstances.
“The UFU and the dairy committee want to thank the CEOs from each of the dairy companies for attending the meeting and we look forward to working together on behalf of the local dairy industry,” concluded the UFU president.

Commenting on the outcome of the meeting with the UFU, Nick Whelan, Group Chief Executive at Dale Farm said: “We echo the sentiment of the statement provided by the Ulster Farmers’ Union this week, describing our recent meeting as both constructive and mutually beneficial.
“As a farmer-owned cooperative, we are committed to representing the needs of our farmer members and the dairy industry overall, therefore nurturing a positive working relationship with UFU is very important. 
“We are keen, alongside our fellow dairy industry representatives, to engage in two-way communication and collaboration with the UFU, for the ultimate benefit of our farmers.”

Meanwhile the Union is assessing the potential for all the dairies in Northern Ireland to introduce an A+B-C pricing system for milk. This is akin to a components-based mechanism, which would reward farmers for the actual amounts of butterfat and protein they produce but would penalise actual milk volumes.

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Such a system was introduced in the Republic of Ireland a number of years ago. Speaking at a recent press event, Union Deputy President Victor Chestnutt suggested that A+B-C is a fairer way of paying milk producers, adding:

“The current milk pricing systems are not working: we need change.”