Northern Ireland’s Farm Minister Michelle O’Neill has written to EU Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan, requesting a hike in dairy intervention prices.

“Throughout 2015 I have been calling on Commissioner Hogan to raise the intervention price given the difficulties facing our dairy farmers in the north.

“I was disappointed to note that in October 2015 Commissioner Hogan said he did not agree with my views on raising the intervention price, and as recently as last week, I have written to Commissioner Hogan again to register my concern that prices here continue to remain at an extremely low level and that our farmers are doubly disadvantaged because of adverse exchange rate impacts.”

The weighted average dairy price from January to October 2015 in Northern Ireland was 32% below the 2014 level.

O’Neill said that October, just past, saw average farmgate prices in the north sitting at 20.4p/L (27.62c). This is still almost 10% below the current EU weighted average of 30.59c.

“My concern for the milk sector is such that I allocated our entire allocation of EU targeted financial aid to dairy farmers.

“Payments to these farmers began on November 16. I have also prioritised making CAP Direct Payments in full to all farmers.

“Payments in the north began on December 1 with 95% of eligible farm businesses receiving payment in December.

“While the enhanced EU aid made available for the north, together with Direct Payments should help ease the immediate cash-flow concerns of our hard-pressed farmers, I am very concerned that any relief will be short-lived.

“I remain convinced that raising the intervention price will put a floor in the market and I am calling on Commissioner Hogan to, at the very least, initiate a review of the intervention price.”