In the wake of falling milk prices and the continuing market challenges within the beef and lamb sectors, Farmers for Action’s William Taylor is calling for the Stormont Executive to establish a formalised farmgate pricing system for Northern Ireland, which will guarantee producers a return that wholly reflects their costs of production.

“The new arrangements would also include an additional margin, index linked, which will ensue that producers can actually make a viable living. The need for these arrangements has become even more acute, given the results of a recent investigation by the European Milk Board into the dynamics of the Swiss dairy sector, post the ending of milk quotas in that country back in 2009,” he explained.

“Significantly, this work confirms that the increases in milk volumes generated over the past five years resulted in the Swiss milk industry losing 24%of its value by 2010/2012, when compared to the average farm-gate price recorded during the quota era.

“The warning signs for Northern Ireland are obvious, given that EU milk quotas will end in just over six months’ time. There is no reason why the Executive cannot take this course of action.

“Moreover, such a step will not lead to dearer food prices in the shops. It simply means that the supermarkets will have to take a smaller profit margin on their sales.”

William Taylor does not believe that the introduction of the envisaged price scheme will lead to a massive increase in local food output, which would put increased budgetary pressure on Stormont.

“Under the scheme that we are proposing there will be no need, whatsoever, to cap food output. What will happen is that farmers who want to get out of milk, let’s say for quality of life reasons, would have the confidence to look at other sectors – and vice versa. As a consequence, the initiative we are proposing would be neutral from a food production point of view.”