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EU referendum: 'An exit would be very serious for NI farmers'

Co Down dairy farmer and ice cream producer Will Taylor thinks Brexit would put farming into a crisis.

By Rachel Martin

Published 21/06/2016

Will Taylor, from Glastry Farm with Miriam McAfee, trading manager, Musgrave Retail Partners
Will Taylor, from Glastry Farm with Miriam McAfee, trading manager, Musgrave Retail Partners

Will Taylor's 300 cows produce around 2.5 million litres of milk a year, some of which is used to produce ice cream for his business Glastry Ice Cream.

The brand has become a hit with top hotels and restaurants and exports around 30% of its produce to the EU, mainly the Republic of Ireland.

The business has two sales reps based in the south, in Dublin and Galway, and also works with distributors on both sides of the Irish border.

Mr Taylor said: "I'm different from the vast majority of farmers in that not only are we involved in production but we are taking a product and adding value to it.

"From a farmer's point of view the EU is infamously bureaucratic in many of its processes. To put it bluntly, many of its ideas are antiquated and slow in coming to decisions. It's extremely frustrating but on the other side of the coin, in Northern Ireland last year, production agriculture received £236m of support from the EU, but the total farming income was just £183m, meaning the industry operated at a loss.

"If that support goes or significantly disappears, you don't need to be a brain surgeon to work out that it's operating at a £46m deficit.

"The outcome is extremely serious for Northern Ireland farmers if there is an exit strategy for the UK."

He continued: "The EU commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan has already recognised that production agriculture is in a state of crisis and waived the state aid rules that means states can now support their individual farmers.

"It means that the UK government could choose to support its own farmers - not French or Slovenian farmers but UK farmers. But in reality, what have they done to help since the rules were waived on February 25?

"It's an indication of how the UK government thinks in terms of agriculture. There's very much a 'cheap food and low interest rate' policy to keep consumers happy, but it affects farmers."

Mr Taylor added: "As a businessman and an exporter, the last thing I want on earth is anything making it harder to get my vans across from a sterling area to a eurozone area.

"I sell my ice cream everywhere from Galway to Ballyhalbert and Cork to Donegal. Exports are the biggest area of growth for my business. And 30% of my products go to the Republic of Ireland but that 30% is the worrying part of the business. At a time when we are trying to build cross-border business an out vote is very worrying."

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