Ulster Unionist Agriculture spokesperson, Harold McKee MLA, has warned that the full potential of the local burgeoning poultry industry will never be achieved until the local Executive finds a solution to the litter problem.
Mr McKee was speaking after questioning the DAERA Minister Michelle McIlveen on the issue.
Mr McKee said: “The poultry industry is crucially important to the local agri-food sector and the entire Northern Ireland economy. It employs thousands of people and it is a crucial source of additional farm income for many hundreds of farmers now.
“Unfortunately, as the sector has continued to grow over recent years, so too has the challenge of what to do with the increasing quantities of litter which it produces.
“In the past the province’s poultry litter would have been spread on agricultural land but following the introduction of the Nitrates Directive this became no longer feasible. In the years since there have been several bungled attempts, most notably a planned site at Glenavy, to find a permanent solution as of yet.
“As a result of this I questioned the DAERA Minister whether her Department has yet fast tracked a solution for turning poultry waste into energy. Unfortunately, her response was less than inspiring on what should be an issue of major importance to her given its importance to local poultry farmers.
“In her answer to me she said that her Department and the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute had carried out a number of technical studies and published a review of alternative technologies for utilisation of poultry litter in April 2012. As a result, the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition was launched and of the nine proof of concepts were funded. This later led to a £12m Sustainable Use of Poultry Litter Loan Scheme which has supported two litter plants, one in Donegal and the other in Ballymena.
“The problem is however these two plants, with a combined processing total of 65,000 tonnes of poultry litter a year, don’t have the capacity to handle even a fifth of the total litter produced here.
“It is essential that the Minister recognises the importance of finding a lasting solution. Until she does the local poultry industry here will never be able to meet its full opportunity.”