NI animal feed trade ahead in Europe

Professor Chris Elliott, left, Guest Speaker at the NI Grain Trade Association quarterly meeting pictured with NIGTA President, Owen Brennan, right and NIGTA member Declan Billington. Photograph: Columba O'Hare

Professor Chris Elliott, left, Guest Speaker at the NI Grain Trade Association quarterly meeting pictured with NIGTA President, Owen Brennan, right and NIGTA member Declan Billington. Photograph: Columba O'Hare

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A new animal feed testing and sampling regime which starts its initial run this summer, will put the animal feed trade in Ireland ahead of every country in Europe.

This was the message from Professor Chris Elliott, from the Global Food Security Unit at Queens University when he spoke at a recent meeting of the Northern Ireland Grain Trade Association (NIGTA).

He congratulated NIGTA on having the foresight to utilise the scientific knowledge and modern technology to carry out this detailed sampling, and monitoring plan. He added “ As the first link in the food chain you are setting an excellent example. This must be followed throughout the food chain, with the ultimate aim of testing and monitoring everything that is imported into or exported from Ireland and GB.”

NIGTA members have been working closely with Queens to develop a feed security system which will help ensure the safety of all feed materials coming into the island of Ireland and will continue to monitor them through the processing and transporting of the animal feed to the farm gate. A detailed analysis of all sources of contamination and monitoring systems has been developed in conjunction with a comprehensive sampling and testing regime.

Chris Elliott commented: “The system we have developed has been bench marked against some of the leading monitoring and testing systems in Europe and has indicated that our system is much more comprehensive in its monitoring and testing over a very wide range of materials.”

Professor Elliott has also been tasked by government to study the integrity of the food supply chain and report on the horsemeat contamination and what lessons have been learned for the future. He points out that cost is everything in the supermarket trade and some manufacturers had to find ways of meeting this price pressure. He added “ If the UK market is not prepared to pay for our food why are we selling it there.? Take the example of infant milk formula in China. The biggest supplier is Ireland and the Chinese pay five times more for the Irish product than the local one because there is a quality guarantee.”

NIGTA President, Owen Brennan, who is also a member of the Food Strategy Board welcomed these comments stating that these messages were included in the Board’s “Going For Growth” report – grow NI food output by 60% by 2020, through support from government and the regulators along with wholesome food which is quality guaranteed at every link in the chain.

Joe Gilkinson, who chairs the family owned, rural feed compounders committee within NIGTA added “The Food Strategy report is a challenging document but to grow the industry we need farmers. I would like to emphasise that our customers will need support from government and the financial institutions to deliver the growth required. As Chris Elliott has implied, they require the food chain to return prices which will bring profitability back to the primary producers and which will allow them to recover from the effects of weather conditions combined with poor prices.”