The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has said returns for dairy farmers for milk in Northern Ireland are inadequate and that they are “getting shafted” on prices.
According to the union, returns for milk are down 40% compared to this time last year and the majority of dairy farmers are not earning enough to cover production costs.
As well as this, UFU dairy chair Kenny Hawkes believes profits are being made further up the supply chain.
“Our food producers are getting shafted while others in the dairy chain are clearly making money,” he said.
“For more than six months now, nearly 20p/L has been taken from milk prices in Northern Ireland and things are not getting any better.
“This decline is only an issue in Northern Ireland as other regions have started to show recovery.
“Meanwhile, the largest proportion of our dairy farmers are not receiving enough to cover the cost of production let alone have any profit left over to support a home and family.”
Hawkes said it is not sustainable for farmers, especially when input prices remain higher than average.
“It’s utterly disheartening to once again, have to call out the failing dynamics within our food supply system.
“If this continues, dairy farmers will be put out of business which will have serious implications for the agri-food industry and our consumers.”
NI farmgate price
In August 2023, the milk base price average was 28.47p/L. To breakeven, farmers needed to be receiving at least 35p/L – 36p/L, the UFU said.
“Comparing local prices to what’s been happening in Europe, the Northern Ireland farmgate milk price is the third lowest with only Latvia and Lithuania paying a lower price,” Hawkes said.
“On average, the EU farmgate price was 7.62p/L higher. Meanwhile, there is a difference of 4p/L between Northern Ireland and Britain’s farmgate milk prices.”
Hawkes said he has met with the dairy policy officer and Northern Ireland’s dairy stakeholders in major banks to discuss this situation.
“A major concern right now is rising interest rates and the impact it is having on farm overdrafts,” he said.
“Managing cashflow is key for any farm business and as we sit on the mouth of winter coupled with longer term pressures, fears are excelling.
“To keep their heads above water, some local dairy farmers are cutting back from milking three times a day, to twice a day to try to reduce costs, but this is only a short-term solution.”