The co-op’s group chief executive Nick Whelan takes up the story: “Obviously farmers coming to next week’s show will be very focussed on the cost pressures impacting on their businesses at the present time.
“Where this matter is concerned, our message will be very clear. The projected milk price over the Summer and into Autumn will compensate for the inflationary pressures on input costs that farmers are facing right now.”
He added: “From a day-to-day farming perspective, it should be business as usual. We are encouraging farmers to buy the feed and fertiliser they need, as would normally be the case.”
Milk production volumes have remained static, year-on-year, in Northern Ireland. This contrasts with a 4% fall off in GB output in March.
Nick Whelan again:“Milk volumes have also reduced quite significantly across the rest of Europe. Dairy is a supply:demand driven industry. So it is the reduced level of supplies that is driving the ongoing increases in farmgate prices.”
The Dale Farm CEO admitted to being somewhat surprised at the significant price fall registered at the most recent Global Dairy Event (GDT).
“This had a lot to do with market developments in Asia and the Middle East,” he confirmed.
“In contrast, the prospects for European dairy markets remain strong over the coming months. Dale Farm is currently supplying customers in 31 countries across Europe, including GB.
“We have developed bespoke products to meet the needs of these markets and, as a result, should benefit accordingly.”
But shaping the long term future of Dale Farm will be the key issue under discussion at this year’s Balmoral Show.
“And we want to involve our members fully in this discussion,” stressed Nick Whelan.
“Delivering sustainability is an absolute priority for dairy in Northern Ireland over the coming years.
“Dale Farm is committed to achieving this by making best use of science. The good news is that the disruption coming down the track should be manageable and can be achieved in a strategic manner that will not put undue pressure on farming businesses.
“Science is already delivering in terms of improved farm management systems and better genetics. All of this can be built on in a very effective manner.”
Whelan foresees a future within which all Dale Farm milk suppliers will be carbon foot printing their businesses, as a matter of routine.
He added:“It will not be a case of making such a measure mandatory immediately. Rather, our members will have the opportunity to evolve their management at the right pace.
“But sustainability is an issue that must be actively addressed in the here and now. The Dale Farm board and management team are very eager to kick start this process.
“This is why we are particularly keen to have these conversations with farmer-members coming on to the Dale Farm stand at Balmoral.”
Nick Whelan concluded: “Delivering on sustainability represents a win:win scenario for dairy farmers. In the first instance, it means that they can look forward to an economically viable future.
“But improved sustainability also facilitates the expectation of producers expanding their milk output, which would be a good news story for the economy as a whole.”