Northern Ireland Farm Groups including Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association (NIAPA) and Farmers For Action (FFA) coming together on the issue of legislation on farm gate prices, released the following statement in August:
NI farm gate prices are by far the biggest issue for Northern Ireland farmers and the Northern Ireland economy, only followed by Brexit and the far from solved border issue for Ireland north and south.
Food Corporates and Co-op food processors face relentless farm gate price pressure actions continue to make the case for farm gate price legislation . . . It’s time for Stormont’s politicians to get back to work and prove they value Northern Ireland’s farming families and the top quality home grown food they produce, including their link to Northern Ireland’s prosperity. They must get back into Stormont and start processing the farm gate price legislation bill proposed by NI Farm Groups.
Every day Stormont doesn’t sit to act on this vital issue is costing Northern Ireland approximately £1million per day; this is made up of £280million inflation linked per annum on rural welfare support and jobs, according to the Gosling Report.
Farmers For Action have now issued a message to dairy farmers considering term contracts for a large or small portion of their milk, summarised here:
William Taylor, FFA NI co-ordinator, states that “Across the main news we now find that the large food corporates are seeking to Brexit-proof food prices – roughly translated Brexit-proof their profits – and hold off their competition. How can it be right for dairy farmers or any other farmers to sign contracts that are grossly under the cost of production and not inflation linked, merely to facilitate food corporate profit taking.” He continues:
“Co-ops are going out and taking the business from the large food retailers and food wholesalers on mainly the lowest price basis to eliminate competition, then come back to the farmer for their profit . . . This has to be wrong, in that it will never return sufficient money to the farmer members of any co-op.
“The job of a CEO of a dairy co-op is to employ good salesmen and implement a policy of selling a quality product time after time, build up a reputation for dependability and above all know when the market is saturated and when it is not, as is currently the case, and use this to advantage – always have a selling edge and always look for new outlets . . .
“Above all, in order to earn any credibility from their farmer member-owners, good co-ops should be able to sell milk above the price of bottled water and never be a bargain basement seller”.
Points to remember:
- any contracts being currently touted in Northern Ireland must be checked legally; sign nothing without good legal advice.
- remember, the true cost of production ‘without profit’ repeatedly coming back from Europe’s most efficient producers via European Milk Board is just over 40p/l.
William Taylor concluded, “Consider carefully before you sign your family into possible debt for the sake of food corporate and co-op profits with non-inflation linked under-the-cost-of-production contracts.
Legislation on farmgate prices across the staples is ultimately the answer and we are making progress!”
56 Cashel Road, Macosquin, Coleraine, BT51 4NU
Tel. 028 703 43419 / 07909744624
The full text of both messages will be emailed to anyone who would like to learn more – just ask using the comments mechanism.
The Telegraph reported that in March more than 1,000 farmers travelled to London to urge the Government to do more to help Britain’s struggling farmers. Coachloads of protesters arrived in Westminster to take part in a march organised by campaign group Farmers for Action. The organisation says it wants the Prime Minister, David Cameron, to recognise that there is “a major problem” in one of Britain’s oldest industries.
“We can produce the best food you can buy. But we have to be able to make a profit. Currently that is not the case”.
David Handley, a dairy farmer in Monmouth South Wales who organised the protest, said: “We keep getting soundbites from ministers, saying they’re listening and have a 25-year strategy plan. But the majority of farmers here today want to know how they will get through the next 12 months. Falling prices across the industry are making production unsustainable. People cannot take this any longer”.
See the video, fronted by BBC Midlands Today news correspondent David Gregory-Kumar (left).
Low wholesale prices for goods including milk and cereal have caused income to plummet for many farmers across the UK. Growing competition from global markets and increasingly fierce supermarket price wars have intensified the problems.
In The Times, David Handley (Farmers for Action, below right) stressed that all sectors of the farming industry are under severe financial pressure and many are not even covering their costs of production and that this cannot be allowed to continue:
“The government shows no appetite to sort this out, merely issuing the occasional soundbite. When an industry gets in such a crisis we feel our government should lead from the front. We are not looking for handouts, but we need some answers.
“Do they want us to work in a free market, which is not operating a level playing field and the weakest producers keep going to the wall? Or do they really want British farmers to feed British people and also sell our products on the global stage – which would boost the productivity of our industry and also increase funds to the Treasury?
“If the answer is that we are to work in a free market, with no protection whatsoever from importation of products which do not meet our standards, then Mr Cameron has a moral obligation to tell the industry that this is the path he wishes to take and therefore farmers will be able to make a decision about their futures.
“If the answer is that he wants British farmers to feed British people, then he has to answer a number of questions:
- Is he going to provide a level playing field?
- Is he going to give all the tools necessary to play on the global stage?
If the answers are yes to the above then he has an obligation to step forward with a strategy that clearly tells British farmers it will be profitable for them”.
In a comment on this article, Phillip Cozens summarised:
The government presides over a situation in which last year we imported 70% of the food consumed in the UK. This is utter madness, strategically, environmentally, economically. Support for indigenous food production, with the realistic potential to be self sufficient, if the need arises, should again be a national priority. This is probably more important for our security than having a nuclear deterrent.
The World Climate Change Conference in Paris is under way, attended by over 150 countries. In a message received today, from William Taylor, co-ordinator of Farmers for Action, Northern Ireland (second left, meeting on farmgate prices) writes:
According to Sir David Attenborough, Barack Obama and others there is still time to fix this, but only just and we must act now for the sake of our children and future generations!
Now we have the corporates, food wholesalers, retailers and processors in a corner.
How can they mention the word ‘green’ yet import New Zealand lamb during 2015 when there is plenty already here, purely for profit and to play off New Zealand farmers against UK farmers and vice versa. (Ed: see MP Caroline Lucas’: Stopping the great food swap: Relocalising Europe’s food supply).
How can they import beef even from Poland when there is plenty here already and so the list goes on – but no longer! FFA intend to hold the corporates and Westminster Government to account on their carbon foot print at every turn by exposing their green credentials for the pharisees that they currently are.
Furthermore, FFA would warn the Government about pointing the finger at livestock methane emissions (which are being improved on) which disperse in 20 years – while the corporate food world plays fast and loose with carbon footprints and the resulting CO2 emissions that take 200 years to disperse, purely for profit, with the Government’s blessing, while UK farmers go broke.
FFA are calling for the Westminster Government to introduce the pre-EU Isle of Man system, where regional produce, which must come from the nearest source, must all be used first and foremost before any is imported.
US cannot turn up at a climate change conference in Paris in full support and then agree to have the same food – eg beef – sailing to the US whilst another ship sails to the UK with the same cargo. This is but one example of the double standards of the UK Government and Europe on climate change that FFA are not prepared to tolerate!
Farmers For Action
56 Cashel Road, Macosquin, Coleraine, BT51 4NU
Tel. 028 703 43419 / 07909744624
‘Smoke and mirrors’: the true picture for British farming prospects distorted as electioneering intensifies
As ministers trumpet the great export potential of British produce, official records are hard to come by. The link to the November Commons EFRA debate does not open and the publication link [below] also does not respond:
The outlook is bleak for British farmers who don’t have the largest holdings, and who produce perishable foods which can’t be stored until prices rise.
However, thanks to the farming press and correspondence from a dairy farmer, some information is available – and significant.
It is reported that the dairy sector is in a desperate state. MPs have been told that farmers are being paid less for milk than the cost of production. Over four hundred milk producers quit the business in 2014, compared with 200 in 2013.
“The situation is getting so serious that in the last nine weeks we’ve passed three individual dairy producers on to the Samaritans because they were in such a desperate state and the full impact isn’t yet being seen.”
A link to the video on FFA’s website has been received; to open this go to http://www.farmersforaction.org/8.html
George Dunn, chief executive of the Tenant Farmers Association, whose critique of government’s Groceries Code Adjudication process is well worth reading, commented: “This is a horrendous time… We are losing family farming. We have valleys which have had 20 dairy farmers where we have none any more.”
The committee heard that the supply chain needed to be subject to greater scrutiny.
Mr Handley said that the money between the processor and retailer needed to be tracked: “We need to have some honesty and transparency. There is far too much smoke and mirrors. Unless we get proof that global markets are affecting the domestic price then we will continue to blockade”.
Mr Dunn [right] explains: “The question we have been asking is, ‘Where does the money go?’ We might not need to have a higher price, just that we need a fairer share of the market.”
Mr Handley disputed claims that the price cuts were down to global markets, saying: “We find it very suspicious when we are being told that it is [due to] oversupply when 85% of our milk never leaves these shores.”
Government: are share prices, lucrative consultancies and directorships more important than justice & food security?
Farmers’ lives are being shortened to give company shareholders, high flying consultants and industry leaders a substantial income and maximise corporate profits
A dairy farmer writes about the death of Andrew Hemming, vice-chairman of Farmers for Action:
This is so sad, I heard him speak at a few protests and meetings he attended in our area and he came over as caring, dedicated to our cause, and inspirational. I am truly sorry that his life has been cut short at such an early age and send his family my heartfelt sympathy.
I fear the same for members of other equally dedicated and caring farming families who are also fighting desperately for survival. They also may be shortening their lives by working far harder than is reasonable, or safe for their health, just in order to feed animals, meet bills and survive in a ruthlessly competitive target driven industry where maximising profit is considered by some as more important than people or animals, and for what?
To give company shareholders, high flying consultants and industry leaders a substantial income and maximise corporate profits?
All we ask is control of our own destiny by earning a fair and honest living from the land we are responsible for, with income derived from producing a good source of staple food that people need, and to leave a realistic and sustainable future for our families and communities, which is what Andrew was working so hard to achieve.
We do not want this continual conflict, and I am certain that Andrew didn’t
It is 2 years since Asda wielded their massive financial power to intimidate Andrew, David Handley and the other FFA regional coordinators by taking them to court.