© John-Eveson

Farmers in Northern Ireland are being warned not to engage in trade of illegal milk from the Republic of Ireland.

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) and Dairy UK have called for authorities in NI and ROI to identify those involved with smuggling over-quota milk across the Irish border “and use the full rigours of the law to deal with them”.

The organisations also warned farmers to consider the consequences of taking part in this illegal activity for both their businesses and the industry as a whole.

“This is an extremely serious matter for the NI dairy industry as a whole,” said Dr Mike Johnston, NI director of Dairy UK.

“The actions of a few individuals are putting at risk the livelihood of all dairy farmers in Northern Ireland. Facilitating the smuggling of milk into NI jeopardises our dairy product exports, as well as the trust that consumers have in the integrity of our products. Such is the seriousness of this that I would encourage all dairy farmers to be vigilant in their area, and report anything suspicious to the appropriate authority,” he added.

Those caught smuggling would seriously damage their relationship with their milk buyer, he warned, and would also face prosecution.

“In addition, they also risk losing either a substantial proportion, or all of their single farm payment. And if their action results in either milk or dairy products having to be withdrawn from the supply chain and destroyed, then their liability could be significant, to the extent that they could lose their farm.”

UFU president Harry Sinclair agreed, adding the actions of some were threatening the entire integrity of the industry.

“It appears that a few unscrupulous individuals are potentially putting the good reputation of farmers at risk. I would strongly discourage anyone from getting involved in these illegal activities and would go further and ask everyone to be vigilant and to alert the authorities immediately of any suspicious activity happening in your area.”

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