Ulster Unionist MLA and party agriculture spokesperson, Jo-Anne Dobson, has said that buying locally grown and reared fresh produce is the best way for the public to support farmers through the current agricultural crisis.
She said: “Buying local freshly produced food, whether it’s dairy, vegetables or meat, is not only healthier but also makes economic sense. Our farmers produce some of the highest quality, world-beating food right here on our doorsteps – it makes sense to buy local.
“As farmers continue to receive below production costs for their produce public support for them and their families is crucial. The best way for the public to show that support is by buying local food.
“Not only does buying home-grown produce support our farmers and their families through the present difficult times this investment trickles down through our entire local economy from the farm suppliers to the corner shops.
“Other countries, especially the Republic of Ireland through Bord Bia, have been successful at promoting their produce both at home and abroad. There is no reason why we shouldn’t adopt a similar message – buying local makes economic sense, it’s healthier and supports our farmers.
“I have made my views very clear on the importation of sub-standard meat products, whether its beef, pork or poultry, into Northern Ireland – this suppresses the farm gate prices and is in direct competition with our local farmers who must comply with the most rigorous standards and regulations.
“I have written to the Agriculture Minister on a number of occasions about this issue and she has confirmed to me that meat imported into Northern Ireland from outside the EU was worth £16 million in 2014.
“Alongside farmers at a recent meeting with representatives of independent shopkeepers we all urged the importance of supporting the local economy by shops, large and small, stocking fresh Northern Ireland grown and reared produce.
“Supporting our farmers is absolutely key to them receiving a fair price for their produce – the present crisis where they are receiving below production costs cannot be allowed to continue indefinitely. That would wield irreparable damage to their livelihoods and to our rural way of life in Northern Ireland.”