The National Dairy Council (NDC) has hit back at claims by the Minister of Northern Ireland (NI) regarding its Guarantee scheme.

The NDC is currently engaged in promoting its members’ products under the packaging mark ‘Farmed in the Republic of Ireland’. The NDC is a private company owned by a number of dairy processors and co-operatives. Farmers pay a levy each year to support the running of the NDC.

In a NI Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) statement this week, its Minister Michelle O’Neill spoke on the dairy sector on the island of Ireland where she highlighted some concerns she had regarding the NDC Guarantee scheme with Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney at Wednesday’s North-South Ministerial Council meeting in Armagh.

On foot of the NI minister’s statement, AgriLand understands the NDC has written to DARD this week for it to take note of the “facts”. 

In this correspondence, it states “suggestions that the National Dairy Council Guarantee is potentially restricting trade or putting pressure on retailers are simply not correct”.

The letter reads: “The NDC Guarantee is a story about successful provenance and origin marketing. The NDC Guarantee is not new. It was introduced four years ago in 2009. It was supported by consumer research in the Republic of Ireland showing that 81 per cent of consumers said they believes it would be good to see a label which showed where milk has been farmed and research which highlighted that 70 per cent of consumers believe it is important that the milk they buy is sourced in the Republic of Ireland.”

The NDC also stressed that when its Guarantee policy was originally developed “its parameters were tested legally against both the Competition Act and the Free Movement of Goods Act and found to be entirely compliant”.

Speaking to AgriLand, a spokesperson for The Competition Authority confirmed the current position.

“We did have a complaint back a number of months on this. Our monopoly division looked at it and didn’t see and issue from competition perspective. The investigation was closed and we are not looking into in at this point. If the circumstances change, we can take a look again. We have no issue with the Guarantee campaign.”

Pictured Minister Simon Coveney and his Northern Ireland counterpart Michelle O’Neill at this week’s 21st North South Council for Agriculture meeting