UK Union leaders meet to discuss dairy market concerns

Friday, 5 December, 2014

UK Union farming leaders met in Edinburgh at the beginning of this week to discuss the latest issues affecting the industry including the substantial downturn in farm gate milk prices and cash flow difficulties. Ulster Farmers’ Union Deputy President Ivor Ferguson, Dairy Policy Committee Chairman Jonathan Moore, Vice Chairman William Irvine and Senior Policy Officer Chris Osborne met with their counterparts from NFU Scotland, NFU Cymru and NFU.

Speaking after the meeting, Jonathan Moore said: “It was agreed that downward price pressure continues to be driven by commodity prices volatility and milk production exceeding demand but there are actions that could be taken to ease the situation at EU, national, and regional level including the need for a collaborative and co-ordinated approach from the UK farming unions.”
The UFU Dairy Policy Chairman continued: “Cash flows are under pressure across the farming industry, including the dairy sector, and the UFU has been calling for a number of measures that could help to alleviate this. We have argued that Farmer Averaging should be extended from two years to five to help farmers manage market volatility, something that has already happened in the Republic of Ireland. Alongside this, the UK Unions discussed the merits of a Farm Management Deposit scheme, similar to that which is in place in Australia. We also agreed that more needs to be done with the banks to push for an understanding of the current situation facing farmers.  In fact, the UFU recently agreed with the DARD Minister that a joint meeting should be urgently convened with the local banks to discuss the situation on farms and we continue to call for “capital holidays” to be offered for long term business loans.”  
At an EU-level, NFU Scotland Dairy Chairman Gary Mitchell said: “We are very disappointed with the UK agriculture delegation abstaining on votes to extend Private Storage Aid. While accepting that the UK Government is against excessive market support which we can agree with, we are dismayed that they are not open to the sense in raising the intervention threshold which is very much a safety net and at the moment it is lying too low to be useful. The UK unions will express joint concerns to our respective devolved governments and the UK government.”
Jonathan Moore concluded: “Going forward the UK unions agreed that we would be pushing for UK Union Office Holders to meet senior UK government ministers to discuss concerns and this will be accompanied by a call for a UK-wide Dairy Summit to ensure a sustainable future for our sector.”