Tag Archives: Northern Ireland

Government tolerance of unfair trade imperils British food production by failing to deliver justice

 A friend who does not follow farming news in any detail singled out this graph on my computer and I had to say that a more up-to-date version would show even greater falls:

Farm income has fallen sharply on average in Britain and is reported to have plunged by more than 40% in a single year in Northern Ireland, leading to warnings that the industry is facing a crisis. The biggest ‘driver’ was a fall in dairy prices, which dropped by 27% to £480m. The figures were disclosed in a report published by NI’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. 

The BBC reports that some young people from these British farms are now being compelled to get jobs in agriculture overseas because – though their help is needed – their parents can’t pay them to stay at home and work on the family farm.

Ulster Farmers’ Union president Ian Marshall said “These grim income figures are a body blow for farming families – but they are also a body blow for the entire Northern Ireland economy. Almost £130m was taken out of the rural economy. That is money that would have been spent locally, meaning towns and villages across Northern Ireland will have felt the impact of hard times hitting the farming community.” 

Ulster Unionist agriculture spokesperson Jo-Anne Dobson said the figures demonstrated the seriousness of the crisis: “Very few people in Northern Ireland would be able to tolerate a 41% wage cut, but yet that is what our local farms have effectively been hit with”. 

In Britain as she says, the sheer scale of the collapse in farm incomes offers a stark warning that each administration’s department of agriculture should – however belatedly – intervene to address the damaging impacts of unfair prices from processors and retailers. 

For more information go to the Gosling Report. ‘On the eve of destruction’.





Food security: cross-party approach as most farmers are ‘at a crossroads of financial survival’

More news comes from farmers in Northern Ireland, where food producers in all sectors are effectively combining, commissioning fact-finding research, and entering effectively into dialogue with Stormont, before forthcoming elections.

jim allister meeting(l-r Michael Clark, chairman NIAPA, Sean McAuley, FFA Steering Committee, Jim Allister MLA & William Taylor, FFA UK NI co-ordinator)

Farmers For Action and Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association are continuing to meet political parties and Independents in the wake of the Gosling Report, which makes the case for legislation on farm gate prices by Stormont as soon as possible.

The office of MLA Jim Allister was the venue for a meeting to put forward the idea of his TUV party and as many others as possible, including independents, adding legislation on farmgate prices to their manifesto in the lead up to May’s election.

jim allisterThis party leader, a barrister, “proved to be well informed about just how bad things are down on the farm and is considering his parties support for this proposal very seriously indeed”, commented William Taylor.

Political Concern reported on an earlier press release, in which Farmers For Action UK NI’s co-ordinator William Taylor says, ‘beef and sheep farmers across UK and Ireland are at a crossroads of financial survival.’ As large food processors, large food retailers and large food wholesalers expand relentlessly, farmers are increasingly being forced to cut back farm investments due to reducing margins.

The Gosling Report clearly states the prosperity, jobs and welfare savings that legislation on farm gate prices would create for Northern Ireland.

All who see the importance of retaining and increasing the production of wholesome food in Britain admire this cohesive and determined lobbying and would like to see it replicated in Scotland, England and Wales.

jim allister2spotlight

A statement has been sent to BBC Spotlight’s TV programme producers which outlined two years’ work done by NIAPA and FFA UK NI with Stormont politicians and the Agriculture Committee. It is now ‘packaged’ with the economist Paul Gosling’s report, ready for the new Government after the election.

The farm group’s biggest difficulty is trying to get the wider media, the politicians and the general public to make the link:

“Prosperity begins with the land and innovation and Northern Ireland’s largest industry is currently disintegrating because of a lack of a fair price due to the financially abusive dominant position of large corporate food retailers, large corporate food wholesalers and to a lesser extent large food processors”.

If the NI campaign succeeds in “heading towards legislation on farm gate prices” after the election, many share William Taylor’s hope that this will create a domino effect so that all the members of Fairness for Farmers in Europe in England, Scotland, Wales and Southern Ireland will campaign for such legislation.

Government should ensure the country’s future food security


The supermarket ombudsman has announced what has been known to food producers for many years: that Tesco (and we add, others) “knowingly delayed paying money to suppliers in order to improve its own financial position”.

The position of successive governments is that – as farmers go to the wall – we can increase food imports from a global market designed only to enhance the profits of the already rich middlemen and commodity speculators. That means, as at present, importing cheap food from countries outside the EU with poorer standards of animal husbandry.

Cheap yes – now but it is a basis commercial practice to gain a foothold in the market, undercut rivals eventually wiping them out of business, then being free to set price levels at will.

In calling for fair trade in Britain – the ability to put fairly traded milk in Fairtrade coffee is recognised by Fairtrade chief, Barbara Crowther – but a thoughtful reader has reservations:

On the Fair Price for Farmers issue I agree that it is vital that environmental costs, especially carbon footprints, are taken into account in all economic calculations. Also that big business should not be able to hold small business to ransom. But, with these important provisos, I would none the less be cautious about supporting ANY BUSINESS ANYWHERE in that some industries are just not likely to be profitable either because of, say, an unsuitable climate or the lack of skill or diligence on the part of those involved. The issues seem to me a bit different and in some respects more complex than in the usual FairTrade process. But some one needs to make a start!

He was informed that assessments of the costs of competent production have been done – there are a few methodologies – the best was an earlier study by the RABDF – a note on this work was attached.

Just price/fair trade theory was put into practice in medieval Britain – see the work of R.H.Tawney. It is not just a matter of food security but of basic justice.

In England, Scotland and Wales, to varying extents, government and large agricultural bodies have used a version of the colonial divide and rule practice with food producers, so that in each sector, milk, meat, veg and fruit producers look inward to their own affairs and as relatively small entities are powerless to press effectively for change – most urgently needed for those selling quickly perishable food.

Not so in Northern Ireland – see farmers there combining, commissioning fact-finding research, and entering effectively into dialogue with Stormont, before forthcoming elections (see next post).

Farmers in Northern Ireland combine effectively across sectors

In Northern Ireland, farmers in all sectors are combining, commissioning fact-finding research, and entering effectively into dialogue with Stormont, before forthcoming elections.

utv logoUTV reports that these farming campaign groups asked economist Paul Gosling to study the financial crisis facing the local agriculture sector.

paul goslingHis research found that incomes from dairy farming in the UK fell by 5% during 2014, pig farm incomes dropped by almost a quarter, and poultry farms by almost a fifth. Northern Ireland farm incomes in general fell 17% during the same period – figures don’t add up for a sustainable future for the sector.

Mr Gosling summed up the situation: “The main finding is that the farming industry is in crisis. You have so many farmers that are unable to make ends meet, real poverty in many farming families and as a result of that far fewer people who are able to run farms in the foreseeable future. It’s just not a sustainable industry as it’s currently operating.”

A law to make sure they get paid enough to cover their production costs

Farmers want Stormont to bring in a law to make sure they get paid enough to cover their production costs, something which they said isn’t happening now. But such legislation is likely to face opposition from the EU as it would give Northern Ireland farmers an advantage.

wt goslingThe report claimed that up to 10,000 jobs could be directly created in agriculture if Stormont ensures farmers are paid enough to cover production costs. With an election in the coming months, they are calling for politicians to take urgent action to protect the sector.

William Taylor from Farmers For Action said: “It’s not just about milk, right across the market they’re not getting the price of production and farmers are going out of business. In the future I could see farming going to the wall.”

Read the Gosling report here: http://www.paulgosling.net/2016/01/on-the-eve-of-destruction-a-report-on-northern-irelands-farming-sector/


Strength in unity for Northern Ireland farmers: England, Wales and Scotland please note

WT planning

Earlier we reported that Farmers For Action and Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association (above, planning) had invited one politician from each political party, including Independents, to give their views on beef, cereals, lamb, milk, pigs, potatoes, poultry, vegetables, followed by a question and answer session. Farmer-diplomat William Taylor (FFA-NI) sends this press release.

Legislation on Farm Gate Prices

At the end of October Northern Ireland Farm Groups Farmers For Action and Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association came together to host a meeting in Cookstown.

ffa mtg audience

Over 200 farmers attended to have their say with Northern Ireland’s politicians from all parties, including independents, in the run up to the May 2016 local election.

The meeting heard the politicians give their views on agriculture, the EU and legislation on farm gate prices which would ensure farmers in NI a minimum of the cost of production plus a margin inflation linked across the staples.

The question and answer part was lively and delivered to the politicians the scale of the current farm gate price crisis in Northern Ireland across the board and the meeting concluded with 2 votes:

  • the first, staying in the EU which was 60%/40% to leave.
  • the second was do NI farmers support legislation on farm gate prices to stem the food corporate relentless pillage at the farm gate. The vote returned an overwhelming majority – yes vote!

The Tyrone Courier‘s detailed account gave the names of some of the politicians, including Mid-Ulster UUP MLA Sandra Overend; Roger Lomas for NI Conservatives; Independent MLA Claire Sugden from the East Londonderry constituency; East Antrim Sinn Fein MLA Oliver McMullan; the SDLP’s agriculture and rural development spokesman Joe Byrne and Alan Love of UKIP. There was no-one in attendance from the DUP. The press release ends:

NIAPA and FFA would like to extend their sincere thanks for the support of the politicians – a variety of the province’s politicians who came and blew the cobwebs off Northern Ireland politics and the great turn out of over 200 farmers who came to find out why it will be so important to vote in May 2016 for legislation on farm gate prices.

William Taylor, 56 Cashew Road, Macaque, Colerain, BT51 4NU, Tel. 028 703 43419 / 07909744624 Email taylor.w@btconnect.com