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Farmers defy UFU by supporting call to cut back milk production

By Chris McCullough

Published 28/05/2016

Backer: Charlie Weir
Backer: Charlie Weir

A number of members of the Ulster Farmers' Union (UFU) have gone against the body's policy by indicating they would like to reduce milk production if paid compensation for losses.

As the dairy industry across Europe and the rest of the world suffers under consistently falling prices, Northern Ireland farmers called for action in an online survey Conducted by Holstein UK and Fair Price Farming NI.

The poll asked questions regarding milk supply and farmers' thoughts on the possibility of voluntarily reducing it.

Fair Price Farming NI and Holstein UK have consistently advocated reducing supply across Europe in the hope of improving prices - a tactic rejected by the UFU.

According to the survey of 400 people, however, UFU policy is out of step with most of its members' beliefs, with 76% declaring they would be prepared to reduce the supply if offered some form of compensation by the European Union.

The study asked if farmers would be prepared to cut it by 5% in exchange for 20p a litre in compensation.

The results found that 78% of all dairy farmers in Northern Ireland would agree to the deal, and that 76% of UFU members would opt for the agreement.

John Martin, from Holstein UK, and Charlie Weir, chairman of Fair Price Farming NI, said the intention was to help farmers not just at home, but also across the continent.

Mr Weir added: "Our goal here is to improve prices for dairy farmers all over Europe. The only action left that we can take is to reduce the overall supply, and that is something that we are trying to encourage in every member state.

"When we have UFU members agreeing with us that they would support a reduction of supply themselves, then it's time the union leadership listened to its members on this as we need their support too."

Mr Martin said: "We have come up with a number of proposals to source the funding required to pay compensation for litres not produced. One of those suggestions is a loan scheme."

But a spokeswoman for the UFU said: "From the outset, the UFU's position has been that any voluntary reduction in production scheme would have to be operated EU-wide, and without an assured programme of funding there is no prospect of such a scheme delivering a meaningful outcome.

"Even if funding were to become available there is no certainty that supply management of this type would deliver the desired outcome."

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