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Allister speaks at Mountnorris Farm Support Group

17 January 2006

As guest speaker at a meeting of Families in Agriculture & Rural Management (F.A.R.M.) Support Group in Mountnorris, Co Armagh, DUP MEP Jim Allister gave a wide-ranging survey of the state of agriculture, particularly in light of the EU Budget Deal and the WTO negotiations.  However, he focussed in particular on the future of the diary industry in Northern Ireland, which he described as critical to the success of our rural economy.

In the course of his remarks Jim Allister commented, “Virtually every sector has taken hits in recent times, but as we look to the future I note with concern matters vital to the future of our diary industry.  This concern centres on the haste of Brussels to further cut and then eliminate export refunds for milk powder.  Driven by their WTO commitments the EU is putting in serious jeopardy dairy farming in those areas of the EU dependent upon milk product exports.

"We are such an area, with the bulk of our milk ending up as milk powder for export.  The present export refunds keep that operation viable, without them it is hard to see how the market could support a fair farmyard gate price for milk. Last year the Commission cut export refunds for whole milk powder by 17% and skim milk powder by 46%.  If, as I perceive they intend, they follow that up with similar cuts this year then the downward pressure on milk product prices will be immense, at the very time when the Farm Nutrient Management Scheme will be piling on new costs on the producer.

"I brought representatives from the diary industry from Northern Ireland to lobby the Commission in Brussels last year on this issue and I intend to do so again.  The impact of export refund cuts is one thing for an area with alternative outlets for its liquid milk, but where, as here, we are highly dependent, even too defendant, on milk powder exports then the effect can be out of all proportion to the objective of pursuing so called free trade.  Trade not only needs to be free, it must be fair, and as things stand it would not be.  Many of the countries ready to flood the market with powder products have few of the overheads and regulation which so besets our industry.

"While we fight what may largely be a rearguard action against these cuts in export refunds, it is essential that new outlets are found for the quality milk which we produce here in Northern Ireland.  I urge the Government to be more pro-active in this area.” 


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Agriculture and Environment