Last week’s EU dairy aid package for agriculture is fundamentally weak but does contain a few positive themes of a medium to longer term nature, according to Fair Price Farming NI’s Gary McHenry.

“It looks like the total amount of money to be made available to boost cash flows on EU dairy farms will be in the region of £420m. That will work out at less than 0.25 p/L, which is pitiful.

“In my own case, I have experienced a 50% drop in milk prices over the past 12 months. So the package on-offer from Brussels is just a drop in the ocean.”

McHenry is calling for the north’s farm minister Michelle O’Neill to push for the 100% national top up facility that was agreed as part of last week’s EU deal.

“I recognise that she has to ask London for the money. And this will be no easy task. But she must try.”

The Co. Antrim milk producer expressed disappointment at the EU farm ministers’ decision not to increase dairy intervention rates.

“This would have put an immediate floor in the market,” he said.

“However, the agreements regarding enhanced aids to private storage rates are positive in principle. But only time will tell how these measures will impact on the market.”

McHenry believes that the EU Commission’s commitment to look at the integrity of the agri food supply chain is positive.

“It is noteworthy that the Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, has made this issue one of his own priorities. But it will be very much a long term work in progress.

“One of the proposed mechanisms to counter extreme volatility involves the European Investment Bank. The bank is working with the Commission in Brussels to  establish schemes that will link repayment rates on borrowed money to the ups and downs of the world’s dairy commodity markets. This is an extremely positive measure.”

McHenry confirmed that members of Fair Price Farming NI will meet next Tuesday evening. This will mark the start of a process to formalise the structure of the new lobby group.

“Our membership is currently in the hundreds,” he said.

“And we most certainly have a long term future.”