Fair Price Farming NI takes dairy protest to EU Belfast office

Colette Fitzgerald accepts a letter of protest from Gary McHenry, Charlie Weir and Kyle Savage, members of the Fair Price Farming NI group
Colette Fitzgerald accepts a letter of protest from Gary McHenry, Charlie Weir and Kyle Savage, members of the Fair Price Farming NI group

Approximately 200 farmers, all aligned with the newly established Fair Price Farming NI group, have protested outside the offices of the European Commission in Belfast.

The event culminated with the hand-over of a letter, addressed to EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan.

It was accepted by Colette Fitzgerald, who heads up the EU Commission representation in Northern Ireland.

“Dairy farmers need immediate action, if they are to have any form of future,” said Kyle Savage, one of the signatories to the letter.

Members of the new group are asking Mr Hogan to introduce a realistic safety net for the dairy industry.

“And in order to achieve this, he must strike a meaningful intervention price. This would act as a catalyst for recovery and, more importantly, would strengthen trader sentiment, thereby ensuring market recovery,” said Mr Savage.

“With the introduction of intervention measures by the commission, such as happened in 2009, €800m was returned to the commission coffers after it was sold back in to a rising market. We need creative leadership, otherwise the crisis will deepen.”

The Fair Price letter details the plight of milk producers and rural communities as a whole in Northern Ireland. It also calls on Mr Hogan to ring-fence the €860m super-levy within the dairy sector to assist farmers with volatility and risk.

Mr Savage also confirmed that the new grouping would be more than a one-off pressure group.

“We are here to stay. At the present time our focus is on the plight of dairy farmers. And, to this end, we have already garnered support from milk producers right across Northern Ireland.

“However, we also plan to extend our remit to include all of the other agri sectors during the period ahead.”