The dairy sector needs a collaborative approach to address milk prices concerns, according to the North’s Agriculture Minister, Michelle O’Neill.

All parts of the dairy sector and the banks must work together to ease the current difficulties facing our farmers, she said at a dairy meeting in Belfast recently.

Dairy producer and processor representatives along with the banks were invited to discuss the difficulties facing the sector as well as their efforts to address them.

“This is a global crisis caused by a range of international market and exchange rate factors. It cannot be solved at a local level alone, but I have been doing all I can to support our farmers, and I will continue to do so.

“While I understand farmers’ frustration at the current situation and believe that everyone has the right to peaceful protest within the law, I am convinced that we can better tackle these challenges if we work together.

“That means producers, processors, banks and all politicians, not just here but in Westminster and in Europe as well, each playing their part,” she said.

Members of the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) and the Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association (NIAPA) also attended the meeting.

O’Neill said that farmers need practical support at this time and she is encouraging local banks to be as flexible and understanding as possible.

I appreciate that dairy processors are also finding the difficult trading conditions very challenging and have tried to cushion their farmer suppliers from falling prices.

“I would encourage all elements of the dairy supply chain to continue to work together to ensure that we have a sustainable and profitable dairy industry.

“CAFRE dairy advisors are on the ground and will continue to support individual farmers by providing valuable support on improving technical efficiency and business performance,” she said.

The North’s Minister went on to say that action at a European level on raising intervention price thresholds was required and that she is determined to raise the issue in Brussels and in London.

“I have been lobbying Britain and Europe on raising intervention price thresholds and I have persistently raised the need for effective, timely EU support with both the British Secretary of State Liz Truss and European Commissioner Phil Hogan.

“I am disappointed with their response but am not prepared to allow this to go unchallenged.”

O’Neill said that she is planning to attend the special Agriculture Council meeting in September so that the Norths concerns can be heard and addressed.

O’Neill intends to meet with the sector again before the end of the month to ensure that this joined-up approach is maintained.