Agriculture Minister, Michelle O’Neill today raised concerns with her southern counterpart Simon Conveney about restrictions on competition in the dairy sector.
These concerns relate to pressure on retailers in the south of Ireland to offer for sale only milk bearing the National Dairy Council (NDC) “Farmed in the Republic of Ireland” branding thereby restricting commercial opportunities for milk producers in the north.
The Minister highlighted the issue with Minister Conveney at today’s North South Ministerial Council meeting in Armagh, and said: “I am well aware of the problems caused by the pressure being exerted on retailers in the south to market only products labelled “Farmed in the Republic of Ireland” and I am very concerned about any loss of potential business.
“For many years both the north and the south have benefitted from free trade in milk and dairy products. We are also both heavily reliant on external sales, particularly to Britain.
“I fully support consumers’ right to information to allow them to choose to buy local produce. However, since becoming Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, I have consistently made the point that a joint approach to the marketing of products from the island of Ireland would benefit all farmers.
“I believe that fostering all Ireland trade would benefit producers both north and south and I will continue to press for this at every opportunity.
“Although the NDC is a privately funded body I was reassured that Simon Coveney would like to see a change of direction on this issue by the NDC and we will continue to work together to bring this about.”
Notes to editors:
1. Responsibility for the labelling of milk and dairy products rests with the Food Standards Agency.
2. To help differentiate products at retail level the south’s National Dairy Council (NDC) has introduced a labelling mark for milk and cream coming from farms in the south. The mark can only be printed on products approved under licence by the NDC and is additional to that required under EU rules. Its inclusion on products is a commercial matter.