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Farmers' action group calls for unity as protests reap rewards

By Chris McCullough

Published 15/08/2015

Farmers protest outside Tesco in Coleraine last month
Farmers protest outside Tesco in Coleraine last month

A call for all farmers to stand together and fight for their livelihoods has been made in the wake of more protest action in Northern Ireland.

Fair Price NI, a group of farmers that has emerged during the agriculture crisis, says all of them are in the same boat and need to be united in their call for help.

One of the group members, Waringstown farmer Charlie Weir, has highlighted the ongoing protest action is gaining results and should be stepped up.

He has called on all farmers to not be afraid and stand up for their own businesses and families.

Asda has now confirmed it will pay 28p per litre to its Northern Ireland supplier Dale Farm.

An Asda spokesperson said: "Today, we have confirmed to our Northern Ireland milk supplier, Dale Farm, that, in line with the rest of the business we are increasing the price we pay to 28p per litre from Monday, which will assist our farmers during the current crisis.

"Asda's origins are in dairy farming, which is why we are acting in the best interests of our farmers and our customers by increasing the price we pay and not passing on any of the costs to customers - our retail price in stores stays the same."

Mr Weir said: "We have all heard how Asda is responding to the protest action. The details around this announcement have yet to be clarified as we don't know exactly how it will be paid and who to. However, it is good news that they have listened and that they are prepared to act.

"But it only addresses one sector of the industry in liquid milk. We realise we need to work with supermarkets but we are asking for a fair price in all sectors of the industry.

"Whether it be lamb, beef or vegetables, farmers need to be paid a fair price for it all.

"The prices processors are being paid for cheese has fallen by 20% yet it has only went down by two to three per cent in the supermarkets. Butter has also dropped by 25% but has actually increased in the shops by just under 1%.

"Some leading players in the dairy industry have called for the protests to stop. Our message to all farmers is that as long as the protests are yielding results we need to keep them going. The protests have grabbed the attention of the supermarkets and the media."

Mr Weir added: "We are encouraging all those farmers who are afraid to protest to think about how long they can remain in business if they do nothing. The protests are peaceful, they are yielding results."

One of the farmers who attended the protest where a Lidl distribution centre was blockaded for three hours said he felt encouraged by others in the group.

He said: "I felt ashamed that my business was suffering through no fault of my own. It was good to join a group of farmers who are in the same boat. Together we can get results."

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