A Fermanagh dairy farmer has described some of the pressures facing the agriculture sector at the present time as costs rise but the price of their product falls.

Andrew Little (30), a dairy farmer from Tempo with a young family, has an average sized farm for County Fermanagh with approximately 150 milking cows with 100 going through the parlour at the current time.

The price of milk may be up in the shops, but Mr. Little says this is not being delivered “at the farm gate”.

He said: “Whenever Covid hit, milk dropped, and from that milk has risen in price steadily for a right few years . We had a peak of a price for 50p a litre in December and we only got a good milk price for about five or six months. It took the processors a long time to time to deliver on the farm gate.”

Mr. Little says the milk price has now dropped from 50p a litre to 28.5p a litre in eight months.

He added: “Going by the Irish Farmers Journal, we are 26th out of 28 countries – there are only two other countries in Europe paid less than us for milk, that’s the whole island of Ireland.”

Mr. Little explained that farmers have faced crisis before in the price they receive for milk, however they were not facing the issue of other costs running so high.

“One of the last times milk was this price was July 2021 – my meal price back then was £250 a tonne, my meal price today is £360 a tonne. The meal hasn’t come back in price enough to make a difference.

“The meal got an ogeous height when the war started between Russia and Ukraine – they are a big exporter of grain and that is why food took a jump last year.”

A past county chairman for the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU), Mr. Little is involved in the UFU environment, dairy and agriculture committees but knows some of the financial pressures that farmers are facing.

“The beef game is back 40p or 50p a kilo, they have jumped £100 to £200 a head.

“Electric has doubled in price, our electric went from 14p a unit to 28p a unit, diesel is up bravely from what it was, it is back a bit from last year, diesel is up.

“Fertiliser is a big hit on us, it came back bravely so it has, it only came back after the sowing was done for the year.”

One other issue raised by Mr. Little was finances, he said: “Anybody who has money borrowed out of the bank, their interest rates has doubled.

“Any farmer that has savings, they are dipping into their savings to make up the loss or else the farmers are going to the bank and getting extended overdrafts or interest-only loans at quite a high interest.”

He added: “That’s a kick in the teeth, too.”

Comparing it to previous downturns in the industry, Mr Little said: “Years ago when there was a crisis in milk, it was maybe 16 or 17 pence a litre, but your meal was maybe 150 to 200 a tonne, you hadn’t the same interest, the diesel, everyone has a hike up. We are actually haemorrhaging more money proportionally than what we would have done in the last milk crisis.”

He is not worried about the long-term future of the industry but has some concerns for the short-term future.

Mr. Little said: “There will be people quitting producing milk, I do think people will exit the dairy industry.”

He indicated that there is now a lot of regulation for farmers to face in these times.

He added: “I think there should be a bit of leniency out there to the men that are trying hard to pay their bills and get through things.

“It’s going to be a hard winter out there for them, it’s going to be a very hard winter out there for everyone.

“The general public, there is a lot of people out there who do respect the farmers, who remember farmers produce the food they are eating every day whether it’s beside them or down the road or what’s shopped across the world, everybody is here to make the world go round and it’s the farmers who feed you and they need all they can get at the moment.”