An MP has said a meeting with UK agriculture minister Liz Truss in London to request the European Commission introduce enhanced dairy support measures “offered a glimmer of hope” for resolving the ongoing milk crisis.
It came after protestors converged outside a Lidl depot in Co Antrim on Tuesday night in what was the latest in a number of demonstrations across the Province.
Speaking after the meeting with the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs minister, which included a delegation of farmers and food processors, David Simpson said it appeared the Government’s mood is changing.
The Upper Bann MP said: “We urged the minister to go to the meeting in September in Brussels with EU farm commissioner Phil Hogan with a positive message that will support intervention.
“We have some hurdles to jump over yet and she would not commit today, but I can see a different mood from over the last weeks and months.”
Mr Simpson added that “full blown intervention where milk is taken out of the market and put into storage” was operated before and is required again, “in a way that alleviates pressure from the farmers”.
Meanwhile, Omagh farmer Derek Walker, who attended the demonstration at Lidl’s regional distribution centre near Nutts Corner, said protests throughout the Province will continue.
Mr Walker, a member of Fair Price Farming NI, said he believed “the protests are gathering weight” with supermarkets selling milk as a “loss leader”.
“People are realising if we stand together all sections of agriculture will achieve something. Some farmers will have lost their farms by Christmas or before it the way things are going.”
Glen Cinnamon from Lidl Northern Ireland said: “As a responsible retailer, Lidl Northern Ireland has always been committed to supporting the local agri-food sector. In the past year we’ve spent over £85 million on locally sourced produce and continue to work with over 40 of the best suppliers in Northern Ireland, some of whom we have worked with since we opened our very first store in 1999.
“Naturally, we are concerned about the challenges faced by local farmers currently as a result of volatility in global market conditions.
“Our cost prices are in no way linked to our retail prices and any reductions in retail prices are absorbed by Lidl.
“We have always, and will continue to communicate with our supplier base and the Ulster Farmers’ Union in an open and honest manner”.
On Tuesday, Morrisons announced it would sell a new milk brand which will see 10p per litre extra paid to farmers.