The farming industry including Irish Farmers Association (IFA), the Ulster Farmers Union (UFU) and Dairy UK have raised concerns regarding the cross-border selling of milk to unregistered purchasers.

This follows recent concerns by the Department of Agriculture that significant volumes of milk are being sold directly by dairy farmers in the Republic of Ireland to outlets north of the border. It has written to all milk purchasers in the State to warn of this illegal activity.

The IFA has advised dairy farmers concerned about being overquota against selling milk to unregistered purchasers.

“I am aware there have been adverts put into the press in recent days by opportunistic operators offering to purchase over quota milk at knock down prices,” noted national dairy committee chairman Kevin Kiersey.

“I want to urge dairy farmers under superlevy pressure to resist the temptation to deal with those operators, as they are not registered milk purchasers, and they are exposing farmers who sell milk to them to potentially very serious consequences.”

The IFA is calling on anybody within the farming sector approached with such offers to report them to their co-op and the Department of Agriculture.

“I am quite clear that these operators are not working within the law and are being actively pursued by the authorities. Dairy farmers should have nothing to do with them,” he warned.

Meanwhile, in a joint statement on behalf of farming organisations Dairy UK and the UFU, they have warned dairy farmers of the risk of engaging in these activities, not only in terms of their own farming enterprise, but also for the industry as a whole.

“Both UFU and Dairy UK (NI) have condemned the actions of the few individuals who are involved in these smuggling activities and have called on the authorities in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to identify those involved, and use the full rigours of the law to deal with them,” the statement reads.

Dr Mike Johnston, NI director of Dairy UK said: “This is an extremely serious matter for the Northern Ireland dairy industry as a whole. The actions of a few individuals are putting at risk the livelihood of all dairy farmers in Northern Ireland. Facilitating the smuggling of milk into Northern Ireland jeopardises our dairy product exports, as well as the trust that consumers have in the integrity of our products. Such is the seriousness of this that I would encourage all dairy farmers to be vigilant in their area, and report anything suspicious to the appropriate authority.”

UFU President Harry Sinclair said: “This is a very serious issue that threatens the integrity of our entire dairy industry. It appears that a few unscrupulous individuals are potentially putting the good reputation of farmers at risk. I would strongly discourage anyone from getting involved in these illegal activities and would go further and ask everyone to be vigilant and to alert the authorities immediately of any suspicious activity happening in your area.”

Farming cows on silage. Photo O’Gorman Photography