Proposals to set guaranteed minimum prices for NI farmers could not work in practice, UFU deputy president David Brown has said.
Stormont’s agriculture committee is to consider proposals that have been put forward by various farm groups, including Farmers For Action (FFA) and the NI Agricultural Producers’ Association (NIAPA).
The Farm Welfare Bill NI would require local farmers to be paid minimum prices to cover their production costs, plus a margin that is linked to inflation.
However, David Brown said there are “a number of flaws and difficulties” with setting minimum guaranteed prices for farm produce. Speaking on a webinar last week, he pointed out that the NI agri food sector exports most of its products, with around half of sales going to Britain.
“If our produce is set at a price that is higher than produce which is available from elsewhere, then who will buy it? That is a fundamental flaw to start with,” Brown said.
The Fermanagh farmer also asked what would stop importers from undercutting local farmers in the NI market if our guaranteed prices were higher than prices in other regions.
“I haven’t got an answer to that from any of the people who are promoting it. There are difficulties with it and, I’ll be quite honest, its not something that we see as being deliverable,” he said.
Brown was not alone in questioning the proposals during the online event, as John Martin from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) also appeared sceptical.
“Farmers should be getting a fair price for their produce, but I’m not sure that a guaranteed price is the way to go. It would be better to solve other issues in the supply chain to ensure it is more sustainable in the long term,” he said.