The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has called for the Dairy Council of Northern Ireland (DCNI) to support the resolution of issues that it said could have “potentially devastating consequences” for dairy farmers.

The four issues, which the union said are as a result of the Northern Ireland Protocol, are veterinary medicines, cattle movements, plant protection products (PPP) and farm machinery.

The union wrote to the chief executive of the council, Mike Johnston, asking for a commitment to resolve them.

Chair of the UFU’s dairy committee, Kenny Hawkes, said: “Our farmers have raised concerns in relation to Dr. Johnston’s lack of recognition of four major issues created by the Northern Ireland Protocol.

“While the Northern Ireland Protocol has provided practical benefits for the local dairy industry, demonstrated by the fact that 800 million litres of milk continues to flow over the border/day, the challenges it has also created cannot be dismissed and must be addressed urgently.”

NI Protocol issues

Hawkes said that, as it stood, the extended grace period for medicines would come to an end on December 31, 2022, and then all veterinary products used in the EU, including Northern Ireland, must be licensed in the EU.

“Farmers are growing increasingly anxious at the lack of movement to address this issue because without a solution, this could see UK veterinary medicines destined for Northern Ireland, having to be re-licensed for Northern Ireland and some companies may deem this as not cost effective given the limited size of the market in Northern Ireland,” Hawkes said.

“This means a large range of everyday veterinary products would be affected, including anthelmintics, anti-inflammatory drugs, vitamins and vaccines, impacting the health and welfare of livestock which is of the utmost importance to dairy farmers.”

Hawkes said that cattle movements is another major issue for farmers, as “unreasonable restrictions” were put in place in January of 2020 for the exportation of livestock from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

“Many of our farmers would have sold pedigree bulls into Great Britain but the restrictions have brought this to an end and has also affected the importation of dairy heifers,” he said.

“EU sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) rules continue to apply in Northern Ireland under the Northern Ireland protocol.

“This means that since 1 January 2021, all regulated PPPs including seeds moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, are required to meet the EU’s third country import requirements.

“The danger is that whilst according to the EU NI producers could source PPP from the Republic of Ireland, they may end up using a product which is not permitted in Northern Ireland/Great Britain.

“Moving secondhand machinery between Great Britain and Northern Ireland is also being affected by the Northern Ireland Protocol because all machines must be free of soil and other potential contaminants for entry into Northern Ireland.”

Hawkes concluded by asking Johnston for his support in lobbying for the addressing of the “difficulties” faced by dairy farmers.