Farmers to gather for talks over dairy crisis
Around 500 farmers from across Northern Ireland are to attend a special summit to tackle the deepening crisis in the dairy industry.
Scores of dairy farming families are facing bankruptcy because the amount they are getting paid for milk is well below the cost of producing it.
Their losses are running at between 8p and 10p on every litre produced in Northern Ireland, but so far there has been no intervention action from the European Commission in Brussels.
Angry farmers have already taken to the streets and blockaded supermarkets - some of which use milk as a loss leader to attract customers - to highlight their plight.
Today's groundbreaking meeting will include the five main banks and dairy processors. Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill is to attend the one-day gathering at Greenmount College along with Robert McCullough, head of agribusiness at Dankse Bank.
Ulster Farmers' Union official Christopher Osborne said: "This is the first time that all the stakeholders have come together in this way and illustrates the magnitude of the situation facing the whole dairy industry in Northern Ireland.
"We are expecting 500 dairy farmers to attend as well as representatives from all the banks, dairy processors, the grain trade and the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise."
William Irwin, chair of the Assembly's agriculture committee, said: "It is absolutely vital that there is seen to be a common effort on behalf of everyone involved."
The DUP MLA said he believed the event could prove to be significant. "The situation is so dire that I believe there will be a big turn-out at the meeting, because farmers feel helpless," Mr Irwin added.