Robin Swann MLA, the Ulster Unionist Party Chief Whip in the Assembly, has called on the DARD Minister, Michelle O`Neill to distance herself from an apparent major snub to the Northern Ireland milk industry. The North Antrim representative was speaking after being contacted by a farmer raising serious concerns about a call for consumers to buy only milk branded with the National Dairy Council's (NDC) mark.
Robin Swann said;
“Following the official opening of the new Dale Farm plant in Ballymena, a development which stands testament that our indigenous milk industry still has the determination and confidence to succeed in an extremely challenging market, I was concerned to learn the Irish Farmers Association have published details of which retailers are selling milk that is branded with the National Dairy Council's (NDC) mark and are urging consumers only to buy from these sources. Milk that does not carry this mark is most likely farmed and processed here in Northern Ireland.’
“I have previously challenged the DARD Minister in the past to explain what her Department is doing to prepare our milk industry for post March 2015 when quotas come to an end, and I am still waiting for an answer, but our dairy farmers cannot afford to wait for much longer while our markets are being taken in the Republic.’
“If Northern Ireland's agri-food industry is to survive and prosper other elected representatives and their Parties must stop just singing the praises of the southern Agriculture Minister Simon Coveny, and start producing results and securing markets.’
Robin Swann concluded by claiming the Agri-Food strategy board continues to have 'a huge challenge ahead of it and the Department must begin to promote and support Northern Irish produce like never before.'