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Farmers protest at Stormont over falling food prices

Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill addressing representatives from the agri-food industry at a demonstration at Parliament Buildings yesterday

HUNDREDS of people attended a Stormont protest yesterday as farmers vented their anger over falling food prices.

And some dairy farmers have said they face going out of business if the amount they are paid for milk does not rise.

They have held protests at supermarkets to show their frustration that they are paid less than the cost of production.

Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill said: "The fact that farmers, processors, feed merchants, the Agri-Food Strategy Board and others are represented here shows the depth of concern right along the supply chain.

"This mobilisation sends a powerful message to the European Commission, and indeed the British government, that we are not prepared to stand by and watch our most important industry collapse."

The Ulster Farmers' Union organised the demonstration to highlight the impact the crisis is having on the entire agri-food economy.

The minister said: "We share a common concern about the fall in prices and how that translates into prices below the cost of production, the effect on business profitability and the direct impact that this is having on farmers and their families.

"I am doing everything I can at a political and practical level to support the industry through the current crisis."

The global dairy crisis has been caused by a Russian ban on imports, reduced demand from China, adverse exchange rates and increased milk production in some countries.

Stephen Kelly of Manufacturing NI, whose members joined the Stormont demonstration, said: "Food processors and manufacturers make an enormous contribution to employment and to the economy, providing jobs across Northern Ireland in areas where people want to live, set up home and contribute to the local community.

"Great local produce is enjoyed by consumers in markets at home and abroad and the Agri-Food sector's impact on exports demonstrates their contribution to rebuilding the local economy."

He added: "While we are currently experiencing political difficulties we remain firm supporters of having a locally elected Assembly and Executive and again commit to work with them to deliver a more vibrant economy."

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