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Farmers' leader calls for positivity as he predicts milk prices are on the up

By Chris McCullough

Published 26/04/2016

UFU president: Ian Marshall
UFU president: Ian Marshall

Milk prices should be on their way up here and should not be talked down, according to the head of the Ulster Farmers' Union (UFU).

Responding to claims that milk prices could dip to 12p per litre, the UFU warned that now was not the time to add to the "mood of gloom".

Despite the confidence from the UFU that things are improving, some dairy farmers in Scotland have said their prices could fall to 10p per litre.

UFU president Ian Marshall said that the rest of the year would be no worse than where prices currently stand.

However, the union recently raised concerns that prices for April milk could dip as low as 14.5p per litre.

Mr Marshall said: "There are some signs that prices are stabilising.

"Current signals would indicate that the rest of the year will bring no worse than where we are now, and by the autumn some improvement.

"That will not be as speedy or as dramatic as we need, but we need to set our sights on the reality that all markets eventually recover.

"We need to then ensure we make the changes needed to avoid this short boom, long bust cycle in the future."

The president said that while there had been some claims elsewhere that prices could hit historic lows, those related to situations in which farmers were losing contracts because of changes along the supply chain and that there were no indications this would be the case in a Northern Ireland context.

He added: "While things have been bad here, farmers have not been forced into that dire position. If we look at our major commodities, thanks to slightly stronger global markets and the weakening of sterling, returns in relation to the milk price are outside the danger zone, and hopefully we can build on that."

While indicating that there had been small price increases in the New Zealand Fonterra auctions, which in turn affects global prices, Mr Marshall said new ways to tackle the long-term volatility of milk prices had to be found.

"This is why we are holding a conference next month with Dairy UK," he added.

"We need to find structures and ways to reduce exposure to markets that will remain volatile, even when the present downturn ends.

"We need to focus on those, rather than on short-term solutions that cannot deliver better prices, and which only add to the sense of despair farming families have experienced for too long."

The UFU has also called on milk processors to think long and hard about the implications for farmer confidence if they are considering March and April milk price reductions.

The farmers' group said it had heard that one processor was considering dropping its base price by a penny a litre for both March and April.

If that goes ahead, it would mean a price as low as 14.5p per litre for April milk.

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