Northern Ireland’s dairy farmers face a milk price drop of 10 pence per litre (ppl) in the event of the doomsday scenario of a no-deal Brexit, according to Dairy Council NI (DCNI).

DCNI said the industry faced a major crisis to “service profitable markets, to process all milk and support the jobs and livelihoods of more than 3,000 farm families across Northern Ireland”.

This tariff represents 25% of the value of our entire industry

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Trade tariffs for exporting both raw milk and finished product would be in excess of €300m, according DCNI’s CEO Dr Mike Johnston.

He said this would have a have a direct impact on the price paid to farmers for their milk.

“This tariff represents 25% of the value of our entire industry. In a sector where the margin is, at best, 3% or 4%, trade tariffs of that magnitude would wipe out the industry.”

Processing capacity

DCNI represents the four major NI milk processors - Dale Farm, Glanbia Cheese, Glanbia Ireland and Lakeland Dairies - which account for over 90% of the 2.4bn litres of milk produced in NI each year.

Johnston sounded alarm bells at the milk processing capacity; 35% of NI’s milk pool is currently processed at facilities in the Republic of Ireland.

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He warned: “The dairy industry in Northern Ireland simply does not have the capacity to process all the milk produced on farms at present and we are seriously exposed.

“After maximising NI milk processing capacity, there is a processing shortfall of some 600m litres that will not have a viable home if politicians cannot find a solution to the current Brexit impasse.”

Delays

If raw milk could not be transported south without significant delays or certification requirements, then the industry faced a crisis of epic proportions, according to Johnston.

With less than 25 days to go until Brexit, Johnston said farmers and processors were extremely worried, as there were more questions than answers.

“Put simply, dairy processors and their farmers will not survive unless there is a deal.

"NI farmers, processors and customers need a deal to mitigate trade tariffs and enable the continued movement and trade in raw milk and finished products,” he concluded.

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