A farmer protest group has said the UK dairy sector is 'not delivering' for producers and that a move to a model similar to Finland's could remedy the issue.
Farmers For Action NI (FFA) said that 'fairness has left the dairy industry' in a statement released on Wednesday (4 December).
The campaign group, based in County Londonderry, said NI and UK dairy co-operatives have 'taken the soft option' of taking the 'supermarkets' orders' when it comes to prices.
It explained that 'other industry experts' have also commented that co-op dairy producers have been 'soft sellers for far too long', with the trend 'ongoing for two decades at least'.
The group said: “To be receiving 24.5p per litre in 2019 with the last of the United Dairy Farmer’s auctions hitting 38p/l 10 years+ ago speaks volumes.
“Farmer-owned dairy co-operatives buying the bulk of the milk in NI and others in GB have taken the soft option, like the beef processing industry, of taking the supermarket orders at virtually whatever price could be softly agreed and coming back to the farmers for their profit, by lowering their price time after time or even not raising it when desperately needed.”
The FFA goes on to say that the power of corporate food retailers and wholesalers is 'now out of control' and 'out of balance'.
It said: “[There's] no chance of a fair price at the farm gate unless co-op dairy processors are prepared to stand up and demand the price they need to be able to return the cost of production plus a margin inflation linked back to their farmer owners.
“That price today is 45.62p/l according to an average across six prominent EU countries. In addition, co-ops purchasing milk in NI and GB appear to have weak boards and indeed perhaps directors in many cases.
“This is also the case across most of Europe with the exception of Finland.”
The group argued that a similar model seen in Finland's is needed in NI and GB, where the chief executives of dairy co-ops are paid a basic salary plus bonuses equivalent to the bonuses paid to their farmer members on an annual basis.
It said board members and directors of dairy farmer co-ops should go to Finland to be trained on 'how to properly represent' their farmer owners.
“Dairy farmers must all play their part by making themselves heard to their Board members, Directors and CEO’s whom they all played a big part in electing and who work for them,” the FFA added.