The farming industry has made fresh calls to dairy processors to explain why they are not increasing prices to farmers, despite a new surge in global markets and the continuing weakness of sterling.
“What I am saying is a twist on the old adage to put up or shut up," Ulster Farmers Union president, Barclay Bell explained.
“In this case, if they continue not to put up, in terms of higher prices, there is no justification for shutting up. They need to explain to farmers, whether they are members of a cooperative or not, why they are refusing to increase prices to reflect the better returns they are receiving,” said Mr Bell
Farming unions have said the case for an increase was put beyond question this week by the big increase in the Fonterra auction price in New Zealand.
It rose by over eleven per cent, with whole milk powder, a key product for the UK, leading the auction upwards.
“This is the best barometer of world trade and it is pointing upwards. So too is the Milk Market Observatory in Brussels. No arguments can be put forward by processors here against a substantial and immediate price increase," Mr Bell explained.
'Processors interested in their own profits'
Mr Bell said if processors continue holding back, the only conclusion farmers' will have is that processors are more interested in their own profits than in ensuring farmers have the prices and profitability they need to remain in business.
“And at the end of the day, without farmers willing to maintain supplies processors will not have a business,” said the UFU president.
Farming unions across the UK have said farmers had 'every right to be angry' about the situation, and that there would be serious consequences for the entire industry in they continued to lose faith in processors.
“If they are reluctant to tell farmers why they are not paying more, this suggests they do not have a credible explanation,” Mr Bell said.
Mr Bell added that, in the case of Northern Ireland, some businesses with ownership south of the border had increased prices there, despite the weakness of sterling having a negative impact in the eurozone.
“This is because they are responding to pressure from farmers for higher prices. They need to understand that farmers here have even better arguments for higher prices and can no longer be ignored,” concluded Mr Bell.