Minister urges close cooperation across NI dairy industry

Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill and dairy stakeholder senior representatives at Stormont to discuss challenges facing the industry.
Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill and dairy stakeholder senior representatives at Stormont to discuss challenges facing the industry.

Better cooperation across the dairy industry is vital if there is to be a solution to the current difficulties, agriculture minister Michelle O’Neill has said.

Speaking after chairing a crisis meeting of industry stakeholder on Thursday, the minister said a consensus was needed to address issues “such as cash flow on farms and the current over-supply of milk coming from farms”.

Around the table with Mrs O’Neill were the Ulster Farmers Union (UFU), NI Grain Trade Association, processors, banks and other key representatives.

The UFU used the DARD summit to call for “fresh and radical” thinking by all banks and other finance houses. UFU president, Ian Marshall, warned that the crisis went beyond the dairy sector to all of agriculture – and that there was no evidence it would be solved quickly or easily.

“It is becoming more clear every day that there is no magic bullet to solve problems like volatility. We can complain about poor global markets and prices - but as farmers we cannot fix them.

“What we can do is tackle a financial crisis that is getting deeper by the day – and the solution, in the short term, lies with the banks,” he said.

Farmers for Action co-ordinator William Taylor said the message his group took to the summit was that there was “no time left” for the struggling dairy industry, and that “many farming families are on their knees financially”.

Mrs O’Neill said she would continue to lobby on behalf of the industry, and added: “I will also continue to work with the banks and finance companies to encourage maximum flexibility”.