UFU Says NI Milk Producers Face Unsustainability

UFU dairy farmers close to bottom of milk price league 

The rural economy in Northern Ireland is again receiving a body blow as milk prices continue to remain low to the point of unsustainability for local milk producers.

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) says the gap in the base milk price here compared to the rest of the UK and the EU is not justified.

UFU dairy committee vice chair, Cyril Orr said this was clear after a COPA-COGECA farm lobby meeting in Brussels (23 January). 

He added: “The COPA-COGECA meeting was an opportunity to represent dairy farmers in the UK and raise the shared challenges facing the industry.

“The UFU highlighted particular issues including TB, the local climate action plan and the impact of the ammonia strategy.

Milk producers are facing an increasingly tough time the UFU says as Northern Ireland farmers face lower prices than their counterparts in the rest of the UK and in the EU. (Photo: Jim Masson/ Down News ©)

“But it was the dramatic drop in the milk prices and the widening gap hitting farmers in Northern Ireland (NI) that was the stark takeaway message.

“We now seriously lag behind the industry in Great Britain (GB), let alone the EU,” said Mr Orr. 

In November 2022 the average milk price in NI was 51.93ppl, close to the EU average of 51.69ppl.

By October 2023 the price was 32.39ppl – a drop of almost 20 pence.

The EU average has fallen by 12ppl. In October 2023, the GB published average milk price was 36.99ppl, 4.60ppl higher than NI. This means that when compared to individual EU member states, NI has the second lowest milk price in Europe.

Mr Orr added that there are positives in play in the global industry that must be reflected in better prices for farmers.

The auction price in New Zealand (GDT) has seen two price rises in the first sales of 2024. This is now reflected in the UFU’s milk price indicator.

“Prices are starting to move in the right direction. However, there is no escaping the reality that many of our dairy farmers are still delivering milk below the cost of production.

“This is clearly not sustainable, given all the many challenges the industry faces,” said the UFU dairy committee vice chair.