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'The situation is getting serious ... and it's time for farmers to fight for our families' futures'

By Claire McNeilly

Published 01/08/2015

Castlerock dairy farmer Ian Pollock with Sam, one of his three sons
Castlerock dairy farmer Ian Pollock with Sam, one of his three sons

Ian Pollock has been a diary farmer in Castlerock for almost 20 years.

His grandfather passed Braemar Farm down to his father, who handed it over to him, and he hopes that one of his three sons will eventually take over the business and his 120-strong herd.

But the 35-year-old is worried that the ongoing milk price crisis will put his family's future in jeopardy.

"Twenty years ago two litres of milk in the supermarket cost £1.09 and today it's averaging 90p," he said.

"The average price for producing a litre of milk in Northern Ireland is 27p, but last month we got just 19p for it.

"The situation is getting serious and it's time for diary farmers to fight for our futures."

Mr Pollock was among 200 milk price protesters outside Coleraine supermarkets on Thursday night.

He said the demonstration was staged by young farmers who feel their message needs to be heard.

"Politicians are supportive of us but there's not much they can do about the wider economic issues," he said.

"We have been going on for over a year with low milk prices and we haven't said anything but it has got to a desperate stage now.

"We're disgruntled with supermarkets using our product as a loss leader and we feel we have to do something to safeguard our livelihoods."

He added: "I've heard of farmers out there losing £30,000 a month."

Mr Pollock, who is a member of the Ulster Farmers Union and also started a small ice-cream business 10 years ago, said that 200 million litres of milk is supplied in Northern Ireland every month, 15% of which goes into the local market.

"If the supermarkets would even pay 5p a litre more it would be a stepping stone in helping farmers get through this tough period," he said.

"That's why we feel we need to protest. We don't want to turn the public against us, we're just out to make a point to the supermarkets.

"At the minute 500ml of water is coming in at £1 but you can buy two litres of milk for 90p; it just doesn't add up.

"If the supermarkets pay the processor more, the processor will pass it on to the farmer.

"It may only mean 1p or 2p to our bottom line but it would certainly help. Pennies make a big difference in milk prices."

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