BYGONE DAYS: ‘Save milk industry’ call issued to minister

Urgent talks had been taking place between the Ulster Farmers’ Union, the Milk Marketing Board, and Mr Giles Shaw, the minister in charge of agriculture in Northern Ireland, it was revealed in a UFU statement issued to Farming Life during this week in 1980.

Monday, 19th April 2021, 10:12 am
Championship cheques at the Landrace show and sale at Ballyclare being handed over to the winners by Mr Eddie Brett, manager of the Ballymena branch of the Bank of Ireland, which sponsored the special prizes at Ballyclare in April 1980. On the left is Mr Cyril Millare from Coleraine (£30 for supreme champion) and Mr Robert Overend, Bellaghy (£20 for reserve). Picture: Farming Life archives

In addition to expressing concern about the dairy industry the farmers’ leaders also drew attention to the serious situation of the pig and poultry sectors.

The UFU president, Mr John Laughlin, was accompanied by Mr Joe Patton, deputy president, Mr W H Gilliland, general secretary, and Mr John Lynn, the Milk Marketing Board chairman.

Dr James Young, head of the Department of Agriculture, and Mr John Chalmers, joined in the talks held at Dundonald House in east Belfast.

Mr John McBride, second right, who judged the Landrace pigs at the breed show and sale at Ballyclare in April 1980. He is pictured with, from left, NILPBA secretary Mr Frank Espley, Mr William McCarroll, president, and Mr William Clyde, chairman. Picture: Farming Life archives

Mr Laughlin re-emphasised that due to the UK policy on milk support it was essential to find a way to supplement the Northern Ireland producers return from the market.

He explained how vital the dairy industry was to Northern Ireland agriculture and the economy and that unless the market return was supplemented to maintain the producer price close to the producers’ price in GB, the industry would go into decline.

Mr Laughlin pointed out that cost of production in GB was no higher than in Northern Ireland. The GB return was accepted as being inadequate.

He said that the lower return, which would be received in Northern Ireland without the special supplement of the market return, would not maintain viable milk production.

Watching the judging of Landrace pigs at the breed show and sale at Ballyclare in April 1980. Picture: Farming Life archives

Mr Laughlin was strongly supported by Mr Lynn who assured the minister that Northern Ireland dairy products were being marketed well, and the board and the industry were making tremendous efforts to make the marketing in GB even more effective.

Mr Lynn expressed concern at the number of producers who were taking up the EEC schemes for getting out of milk production.

Mr Shaw accepted the farmers’ case and appreciated the need for the action requested.

He made clear that there were serious difficulties to overcome to achieve the desired objective.

Mr Cyril Millar from Glenleary, Coleraine, with his Landrace supreme champion gilt at the breed show and sale at Ballyclare in April 1980. Picture: Farming Life archives


Representatives of the NI Pigs Marketing Board and the Ulster Curers’ Association had also met with Mr Giles Shaw to inform him about the serious situation faced by the Northern Ireland pig industry, both producing and processing sectors.

The producing sectors had been in serious loss throughout the previous 12 months and the stage had been reached where rapid decline in the pig herd was taking place.

It was noted that this decline would lead to a totally inadequate supply for pigs for processing factories which had already been affected by the worst GB bacon market in memory, and that this would likely lead to disastrous consequences for both producers and processors, according to the PMB statement which was issued after the meeting.

Mr Hubert Gabbie from Crossgar with his Landrace boar which was judged best male at the breed show and sale at Ballyclare in April 1980. Picture: Farming Life archives

It read: “The whole of the Northern Ireland pig industry faces enormous disadvantaged when compared to the industry in Great Britain and other EEC member states, so much so that an early and effective remedy is vital if it is to retain its recognised market share and maintain current levels of employment.”

The plight of the pig sector in Northern Ireland had also been raised when the UFU leaders had met with the Minister of Agriculture.

Mr Laughlin told the minister again of the serious handicap of higher feed prices compared with producers in GB.

The minister pointed out that there was a substantial gap between the return for Northern Ireland pig meat and the return obtained by the Danes.