The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has claimed that at least one supermarket group in Northern Ireland is about to significantly cut the price of milk in its retail outlets.

William Irvine, the UFU’s deputy president warned today (Wednesday, May 10) at the opening day of Balmoral Show 2023, that “where one leads, the others will follow”.

He added: “The last thing that dairy farmers need right now is to have milk prices falling in the shops.”

According to Irvine, dairy processers have cut farmer milk prices consistently over the past four months.

“As a result, the average producer price on offer for April milk is well below the cost of production.”

The UFU’s deputy president said that “break even” milk prices in Northern Ireland now stand at 40p/L.

“Much talk has been made of the recent fall in feed and fertiliser prices. But the reality is that the cost all of these inputs remains well above the levels they were at two years ago,” he added.

“The reality is that dairy farmers are now making significant losses and there is little prospect of these circumstances improving in the very near future.”

Dairy markets and milk price

The UFU has poured cold water on predictions that dairy markets will recover later this year.

Irvine has warned that this is why “the prospect of a milk war right now is so potentially damaging for the dairy sector as a whole”.

He said farmers are angry about the recent upbeat profits reported by fertiliser companies.

“Having seen the recent publication of accounts outlining the profits made by feed and fertiliser importers, it’s extremely hard to swallow,” he said.

“With the current cost of living crisis coupled with rising input costs on farm, farmers have been grappling with the financial pressure.”

Although some input costs like diesel and fertiliser have eased back he said they were “still massively inflated compared to what they were”.

“It’s totally demoralising to realise that big agri companies have been reaping the profits while the primary producer has been left with the crumbs,” he continued.

“There’s no doubt that due to the huge profits feed and fertiliser importers have made, they can afford to reduce the price farmers pay for their products.”

Irvine said that farmers provide the foundation on which every farming business is built upon and claimed that companies have taken their “longstanding loyalty” for granted.

He said it was time for farmers to “put their farm business and own priorities first and shop around when buying inputs”.