South Down MP Margaret Ritchie has said Minister Eustice at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has confirmed that the Government is looking at longer term measures to protect the dairy industry in Northern Ireland and Britain.
Ms Ritchie said she had been making ongoing and persistent representations to the Minister for Agriculture in the EFRA Department in Westminster to bring forward measures to protect the dairy industry which has been subject to and undermined in some instances by the volatility in the pricing and market situation.
She added: “Minister Eustice has acknowledged in a Parliamentary written response to me that average prices have been consistently lower in Northern Ireland since Spring 2014 due to the stronger links to the commodity markets and the greater reliance on export markets. According to the Minister this has been taken into consideration when allocating the Exceptional Adjustment Aid funding from the European Commission announced in July 2016 and of which Northern Ireland will receive a proportionately higher share of £4.1 million.
“I have been told by the Minister of State at EFRA that there will be schemes focused on BVD eradication, soil sampling and analysis, a pig industry competitiveness programme and risk management training. The Minister has also confirmed to me that his aim is for a dairy industry that is successful and resilient to the kind of volatility the market is experiencing. In this regard, EFRA is pursuing a number of measures so that the sector can take advantage of the significant longer term opportunities for growth to secure its viability. This will involve working on a new futures markets and will consider proposals for improved processing to add more value.
“Whilst acknowledging this progress to make the dairy industry more effective, I will continue to pursue the Minister on these issues to ensure that the industry and dairy producers are fully protected and safeguarded.”