The Northern Ireland Milk Marketing Board has decided to make no change in the September milk price. And it hopes that it will not be necessary to make reductions in the course of the winter.
Board chairman Mr John K Lynn, in a statement issued at the weekend, said that on a number of occasions recently they had warned producers that because of the swamping of the British market for dairy products by highly-subsidised imports, the board might be forced to reduce the already-announced prices payable to producers for milk in September and succeeding months.
Last week the board was engaged in a detailed and comprehensive review of the latest information and forecasts. As a result of the review it has come to the conclusion that, although its reserves have been seriously depleted by the problems of recent months, it should just be about able to maintain producer prices to the end of the financial year.
Said Mr Lynn – “In arriving at the decision to take a chance on being able to maintain producer prices to the end of the financial year, we have been greatly influenced by some early signs that the position on the market for dairy products is beginning to improve slightly.
“One would hope that the recent announcement by the British Minister of Agriculture that he had asked a number of the main overseas suppliers to reduce their exports of cheese to the British market would avert the total slump in cheese prices which previously seemed inevitable.
“In addition, the closing of the gaps in the butter quota arrangements and the very strong promotion of butter throughout the United Kingdom are probably leading to some return of stability in that market.”
On the international front Mr Lynn said there was “some slight firming” of prices for skim milk powder as a result of reductions in Common Market export subsidies and substantial movements of powder through relief organisations to Biafra and other famine areas.
“However, these are only the early signs of recovery and if that recovery is not maintained our producer prices would again be in jeopardy.
“In arriving at our decision we have also assumed that it would be possible to maintain liquid milk sales at last year’s level in spite of some serious adverse factors that are operating in the present year, particularly the decision of the Government to withdraw the supply of free milk in secondary schools when the children return next week,” he added.
They were also assuming that throughout the winter milk production in Northern Ireland would not increase by more than about 5.5 per cent as compared with last year, although it was presently running at about six per cent up on last August.
“From what I have said you will realise that we are taking a calculated risk in this decision,” Mr Lynn pointed out. “However, we feel that in present economic circumstances and with money short in the country generally, producers would prefer us to pay out as much as possible now rather than to play safe and retain reserves which would be paid out at the end of the financial year if they had not been required during the winter.”