Dairy sector needs to keep operating and must be protected
There will be catastrophic consequences for farming and the wider economy if the dairy industry in Northern Ireland is not insulated from the COVID19 outbreak.
The Dairy Council for Northern Ireland (DCNI) said the dairy industry in Northern Ireland is the corner stone of the economy supporting more than 3,000 farm families plus thousands of additional processing jobs. The DCNI said the spread of COVID19 has the potential to decimate the sector.
Dr Mike Johnston CEO of DCNI said the dairy industry needs to be looked at in the same light as the healthcare and energy sectors in terms of critical importance to the economy.
Dr Johnston added that enormous efforts are being made by the country’s processors to ensure milk continues to be collected off–farm each day for processing and distribution to customers in NI, Britain, Europe and the rest of the world.
However, Dr Johnston warned that unless all supports are given to the dairy industry then farmers and processors alike are facing into a bleak future.
“The spread of COVID19 is the single biggest threat to the Northern Ireland dairy industry and the wider society in several generations. If milk is not collected then farmers only have one option, dump that milk. Processors are pulling out all the stops and have taken it upon themselves to inform their farmers and hauliers on how best to halt the spread of COVD19 so milk can be collected and processed each day.
“Milk is a product that is taken from farms today and ends on kitchen tables tomorrow – it is a key component of a natural and heathy diet. Our supply chain is robust but yet so delicate that at this time of the year when milk production is approaching peak resources are stretched to the full. Anything that causes a hiccup in our supply chain could lead to less product being available to the consumers of Northern Ireland.”
The DCNI urged the UK Government and the NI Executive to work hand–in–hand with the food industry to understand and to be proactive on the COVID19 crisis.
DCNI has a number of critical asks that must be put in place:
- We need the Government to give the dairy sector every possible support on an ongoing basis.
- We need the Government to give protection to enable healthy staff to report to work daily in safe manner.
- All unnecessary bureaucracy and red tape for processors, hauliers and farmers need to be eliminated to keep the wheels of business turning.
- There must seamless movement of milk across the island of Ireland.
Dr Johnston said:
“Dairy processors have gone to great lengths to ensure the dairy sector keeps operating daily supporting the livelihoods of thousands of families, to ensure that milk is collected on farms and processed to feed millions of people at home and abroad. That needs to be recognised and protected.”
CONTACT – Dr Mike Johnston – +44 7775 595 892
Note to editors:
Dairy Council NI (DCNI) represents milk processors in NI including Dale Farm, Glanbia Cheese and Lakeland Dairies. These three companies alone account for 90% of the 2.4bn litres of milk collected from NI farms each year.