Northern Irelamd dairy firms target foreign markets as milk quotas end
Northern Ireland dairy firms are off to a trade show in China next month as they start seeking out new overseas markets.
China will be the first stop for Dale Farm, Fane Valley and Pritchitts - which is part of cross-border co-op Lakeland Dairies - under a new export programme jointly funded by the Dairy Council and the EU.
The companies will attend SIAL in Shanghai in May, billed as Asia's biggest food and drink event.
They will also be looking to South East Asia, Russia and the Middle East under the programme, which is supported by Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster.
She said it could help dairy farmers as they re-adjust to life without quotas after 31 years.
The EU this month brought an end to the system restricting the amount of milk farmers can produce - a policy change which has brought uncertainty to Northern Ireland dairy farmers.
Mrs Foster said: "Engagement between government, the dairy sector and trade bodies is vital as we look to promote the quality of Northern Ireland's dairy produce to emerging markets and facilitate the development of new business.
"My department will continue to work with the Dairy Council NI to explore initiatives such as the Third Country Export Programme.
"With the removal of milk quotas, and increased volatility in dairy markets, it is more important than ever that the industry finds new high value markets for Northern Ireland milk products outside the EU."
The programme was launched by the minister yesterday in an event at Stormont's Long Gallery.
Dr Mike Johnston, chief executive of the Dairy Council, said long-term relationships with countries outside the EU as well as domestic customers were necessary for long-term growth.
"Projections suggest that global demand for dairy products will continue to grow, and we want to use this programme to help Northern Ireland dairy companies identify new customers and develop relationships with them, so that we can benefit from demand growth. We are looking forward to exhibiting at SIAL China which will help to develop important trade links in South East Asia; and the three year export programme will also see us target other markets including the Middle East and Russia."
The new dairy export programme is a three-year €625,000 initiative and the first of its kind to secure 50% EU funding.
The Dairy Council is providing the rest of the finance.
Organisers are also targeting ProdExpo in Moscow in February next year - another major international food event.
The programme will also bring 16 potential buyers to Northern Ireland every year for three-day visits from the target regions of Russia, South East Asia and the Middle East.