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‘Huge concern’ among farmers due to rising prices, new union boss says

By Conor Coyle

The new president of the Ulster Farmers Union has warned of ‘huge concern’ among beef and sheep farmers due to rising material costs.

David Brown, a beef and sheep farmer from Co Fermanagh , took over the role earlier this month and said the rising costs of fertiliser, feed and fuel is having a significant impact on the rising prices we see in our supermarkets.

According to David, the price of fertiliser has increased around 350% and that is causing many small and part-time farmers to question whether they will continue to produce at the same levels as before.

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Speaking to Belfast Live at the Balmoral Show, David said in some sectors farmers aren’t confident they will get a return for the costs they have to pay currently.

“Farmers are used to challenges and to be honest around this time of year there generally is a degree of optimism and looking forward to the summer,” the Florencecourt farmer said.

“But inevitably when we see our input costs increasing at the level they have been, it does cause a degree of uncertainty.

“In some sectors there is a lack of confidence there that the market will return the costs that we are being asked to invest.

“The general public is very aware of those cost of living increases in energy prices, whether they are heating their homes or driving their cars. All of those costs increasing have huge implications for agriculture.

“Among beef and sheep farmers, they are showing huge concern because a lot of those are very much questioning whether they can afford to even use fertiliser or not.

Farmers in western areas like Fermanagh and Tyrone are particularly at risk due to the high percentage of those who rely on cattle and sheep, David added.

“Rising prices are having a huge impact - and that is reflected in the fact that many farmers will not sow fertiliser and as a result will keep less animals.

“All of those decisions are being driven by one single factor and that is the input costs - none of us have any control over that because it is influenced by something that’s happening outside of our country.

“The war in Ukraine has brought that to our doorstep and sadly we probably have not seen the worst of this yet.”

Dairy farmer Kenny Hawkes from Co Tyrone said milk producers are not under the same pressure, but many are still feeling the impact of rising prices.

“Most farmers at the minute would be thinking long and hard about doing any expansions and things like that, they’re not prepared to spend money.

“This is all completely new thing for us - we didn’t expect fertiliser prices to jump three times to where they were this time last year.

“We didn’t expect oil to be near enough double, and coming into the winter months where is this going to stop at?

“It translates into prices rising for consumers - your litre of milk is now £1.50 where you could have bought it for £1.

“The bottom line is we’re finding the same pinch on the farming end, and we have to live if everyone else wants to live.”

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