Approximately 150 dairy farmers protested outside Tesco and ASDA supermarkets in Enniskillen last night.
Co. Tyrone milk producer William Maxwell was one of the protesters involved.
“We milk 60 cows at home,” he said.
“At the present time we are losing £1,000 per month. We received 19p/L for June milk. But, in reality, we need a price of 25p to cover our costs.”
Maxwell admitted that the protests will not have a direct bearing on the future prospects for the dairy farming industry in Northern Ireland.
“But they are serving to highlight the depth of the current crisis within the milk sector to consumers at large.”
The Northern Ireland Retail Consortium (NIRC) is the umbrella body representing the business interests of the supermarket multiples in the north. The organisation’s director Aodhán Connolly said that the current farmer protests are serving no purpose.
“All of the supermarkets have tremendous sympathy for the plight of dairy farmers,” he said.
“But retailers are not causing the current problems, associated with low farmgate prices. NIRC milk sales only account for 10% of Northern Ireland’s dairy output.
“The core challenges now confronting local dairy farmers are those associated with the very poor international prices for dairy products. The current ban on EU food imports by Russia is also adding significant pressure in this regard.
“There is also across the board acceptance that the only way of mitigating these problems in the short term is for the EU Commission in Brussels to enhance the levels of intervention support that is available to the milk industry.”
Connolly admitted that supermarkets regularly feature liquid milk on special promotion.
“I disagree fundamentally with the term loss-leader,” he said.
“But I can confirm that the costs associated with promotions of this nature are fully absorbed by the retailers themselves. None of these costs are passed back to the primary producer.”