75% of northern farmers ‘not happy’ with milk price – survey

Over 75% of Northern Ireland’s dairy farmers are “not happy” with the milk price they are receiving, according to a survey carried out by the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU).

The survey was carried out in December 2019, with 212 – or 8.33% – of Northern Ireland’s dairy farmers responding to it. The UFU says the results of the survey “accurately reflects the feeling on the ground”.

77.3% of respondents said they were unhappy with the milk price they get, with 72% of them saying they were in favour of constituent pricing.

Only 27% of respondents were aware of how their dairy processor calculated the monthly base price they receive.

A majority (just over 60%) said they were happy with milk testing services, with around 30% saying the services was fair and around 8% saying the services were poor.

When asked about whether they were confident about the future of dairying in Northern Ireland, 48% said they were, while 41% answered they weren’t. 11% said they were unsure.

Commenting on these figures, UFU deputy president Victor Chestnutt said: “It is clear that a number of issues need to be addressed in the dairy sector, particularly the calculation of the base milk price that processors generate each month.

With the DEFRA [Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] consultation on milk contracts approaching, this is a timely opportunity to have this discussion.

“Throughout 2019 the UFU challenged local processors on the farmgate milk prices and we’re not surprised to see so many expressing their discontent about the milk base price they received,” Chestnutt argued.

He continued: “Furthermore, the UFU has been calling for the debate to be opened on what constituent pricing may look like in Northern Ireland, and the (UFU’s) Dairy Committee has agreed that in collaboration with the Agri-food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), a body of work should be conducted to look at this.”

Chestnutt pointed to the ‘confidence’ figures as the main point of concern in the survey.

One of the most concerning results from the questionnaire is that, while the majority of farmers were optimistic about the future of dairying, a significant number were unhappy or unsure.

“We must use the information we have gathered to help improve certain aspects within the dairy sector, to ensure that every dairy farmer in Northern Ireland is receiving fair returns and can be confident about the future of their farming business,” the UFU deputy president concluded.