Resolving issues around the future of the land border with the Republic of Ireland is critical for the dairy industry, said Dairy UK today.
Dr Mike Johnston, Northern Ireland Director at Dairy UK and Tim Acheson, General Manager of Food Service Operations at Lakeland Dairies, gave evidence to the House of Commons' Northern Ireland Affairs Committee on Wednesday morning as part of the committee's inquiry on the future of the land border on the island of Ireland.
Dr Johnston said: "Over the last few decades, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland have developed common practices to improve efficiency, maximise productivity and add value throughout the dairy supply chain. Through an 'all-island' value chain, dairy stakeholders in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland work closely together and rely on the free movement of people, raw materials and finished goods.
"We have an efficient, well-oiled system that works and delivers benefits to all dairy stakeholders north and south of the border. Dairy companies are focusing on seizing every opportunity available but the lingering uncertainty created by Brexit raises many concerns in terms of future investments and our ability to plan for the future."
Mr Acheson said: "Many dairy companies have operations spanning all over the island of Ireland. Any disruption to the free movement of raw milk or dairy products would have a major impact on dairy processors and dairy farmers while jeopardising our efficiency and our competitiveness."
Dr Johnston also highlighted the key role of exports and trade for the Northern Ireland dairy industry.
"Dairy exports to EU and non-EU countries are vital to our industry. Post-Brexit, we will need to be competitive not only with non-EU countries but also with our EU partners to gain access to new exports markets. We need a joined-up game plan between industry and Government to identify, target and secure new markets for dairy exports. We have tremendous potential to grow and we will focus on fostering collaboration throughout the supply chain and with Government and Parliament to achieve our goals."