Supermarkets 'failing farmers'
Supermarkets are not doing enough to sustain, promote and support Northern Ireland farmers and producers, according to the Assembly's Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development.
At a meeting this week, the committee called on major supermarket chains to give farmers here a better deal, and questioned representatives from Asda and Tesco on a range of current concerns, including polices on payments and credit terms.
In past months, farmers, processors and retailers have held protests at Stormont, claiming they will be put out of business if they aren't paid higher prices for their milk.
Recently, Dale Farm chief executive David Dobbin told the Belfast Telegraph the dairy industry faced one of the "most challenging markets" in recent history.
Committee chairperson, DUP MLA William Irwin, said: "We are grateful that both Asda and Tesco attended the meeting and we recognise that both supermarkets have committed to sourcing and purchasing local produce.
"However, we are concerned that this sometimes doesn't go far enough and that larger supermarket chains, while reaping financial rewards locally, are not doing enough to sustain, promote and support our farmers and producers.
"This meeting was an important opportunity for us to impress upon Asda and Tesco the need for them to engage directly with farmers, to recognise the financial difficulties they face and to work towards ensuring a fairer pricing policy for all."
The committee will also hear from Sainsbury's on Tuesday, November 3 and Lidl later that month.
Deputy chairperson, SDLP MLA Joe Byrne, said: "There has been a lot of emphasis placed recently on the current crisis within the dairy sector but, of course, the need for a fair pricing mechanism extends to fruit, vegetable and meat farmers/ producers, all of whom are also feeling the financial hit."