Farmers For Action (FFA) has issued a farmgate-supply warning for corporate and co-op food processors in Northern Ireland (NI) amid rising input costs at farm level.

William Taylor, FFA, said that co-op milk processors in NI are dragging their feet again at a base price of around 36p/L, whilst Meadow Foods in England announced a price of 41.6p/L going forward.

He added that large meat processors in NI are offering a top price of just over £4.18/kg, while paying over £4.45/kg in Scotland. He explained:

"In reality, dairy farmers should be receiving 50p/L+ for milk, beef farmers and sheep farmers should be on £7/kg + and the same story continues for vegetables, cereals and the majority of other produce of NI."

The FFA said when recent comments from one of NI's banks confirm farmers are not buying enough fertiliser, then the decades of insufficient farmgate prices have hit the buffers and many farmers are rightly no longer willing to risk their farms by going further into debt. Taylor continued:

"Processors have a choice to make – either go to their customers and tell them what their products are going to cost, so that they can pay farmers the proper price for their produce to allow them to prosper or go short of supply."

The only way to support processors to extract proper prices for their products from shareholder profit-driven corporate food wholesalers and corporate food retailers, is with the help of the NI Farm Welfare Bill, according to Taylor.

He added that the bill stands ready to reach Stormont after the May elections, and, if enacted, it would return farmers a minimum of the cost of production plus a margin inflation linked for their produce.

The bill would also enable NI food processors to extract their up-the-line costs needed and, as a result, force large corporate food wholesalers and large corporate food retailers to lower their profits. 

"Therefore, this bill would not affect the cost of food to consumers, other than normal inflationary increases, as the purpose is to force large food corporates to lower their profits and give farming families a fair share of the cake," Taylor said.