Dairy farmer losing £25K of income per month asks supermarkets to share 'slice of pie'

A dairy farmer from Crumlin says he's losing £25,000 of income every month due to falling milk prices.

The cost of selling milk at Christmas was around 50p per litre, it's now only worth 30p.

It means the cost of feeding, milking and housing cattle is nowhere near breaking even.

Mark Blelock, also a member of the Ulster Farmers Union, says big supermarkets should share a "slice of the pie".

"What we need is more fairness in the supply chain. Surely to goodness in this day and age there's enough money in the system that everybody can get a slice of the pie, especially the primary producer or the farmer, the milk processor, the supermarket.

"And it has to be affordable for the consumer to be able to buy it the first place because without them we don't have anything."

The price of selling milk to milk processors in Northern Ireland is lower than in the rest of the UK.

The main reason is that dairy farmers here export 80% of their product around the world to be made into skimmed milk powder, cheeses, among other foods.

In Great Britain, around 60-80% is sent straight to the supermarket shelves in milk cartons.

The market for local dairy farmers is therefore more volatile as the rate of milk can fluctuate from different extremes.

Farmers are used to the ebb and flow but with inflation and the war in Ukraine pushing the cost of feed, energy and fertiliser up, this year has been one of the hardest.

UTV contacted the four biggest supermarkets in Northern Ireland, Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's and Lidil, for a response.

A spokesperson for Lidl Northern Ireland said: "Supporting local producers is a key priority for Lidl Northern Ireland. We invested a record £347 million in the local agri-food industry in 2022, and particularly in suppliers of dairy products, ensuring that thousands of weekly shoppers can enjoy great quality and value as part of a wider and more sustainable, collaborative approach with the sector.

"Lidl Northern Ireland operates independently of Great Britain, tailoring prices to local market needs and we always work with our supplier partners to ensure that the prices paid are both fair and sustainable.”

A Tesco spokesperson said: “We’re committed to supporting farmers across Northern Ireland, and that includes our dairy farmers. We don’t source directly from farmers, but from a dairy co-operative which sets the price we pay. We expect it to have sustainable pricing models for farmers. The price is reviewed on a monthly basis to take into account any fluctuations in the market.”

At the time this report was published, UTV had not received a response from Asda.

Sainsbury's said they were represented by the British Retail Consortium.

Neil Johnston, Director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium commented: "Milk is a global market and Northern Ireland exports a consider amount of what it produces. This exposure to global prices means that the price for milk is often more volatile in NI than in Great Britain.  

"Ironically the price paid by retailers in NI, which is governed through long term commercial relationships, is perhaps the most stable part of the NI milk market equation. Retailers are often between a rock and a hard place when trying to achieve fair prices for producers and lowest possible prices for consumers."

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