O’Neill confirms second Supply Chain Forum date

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Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill has announced that the Supply Chain Forum will meet again in just over a fortnight.

The group was convened by the Agri-Food Strategy Board, at the request of the DARD minister, and held its first meeting last October.

The Minister said: “The ongoing global crisis in agriculture, once again, highlights the need for swift action to reform local supply chains. I am therefore pleased that the next meeting of the Supply Chain Forum will take place on Friday 8 April 2016, at CAFRE’s Food Innovation 
Centre, Loughry.

“I was greatly encouraged by the turn-out and the enthusiasm for the first event which saw around 100 representatives from across the agri-food sector engaging in open and frank discussions on issues such as volatility, competitiveness, sustainability and the benefits of collaboration. It was clear that those attending were committed to delivering real change in terms of improved communication and collaboration within the 
supply chain.

“I would urge all interested parties to continue to engage positively with the Agri-Food Strategy Board as they take forward this important area of work. I believe that joined up working will be key to putting our agri-food industry onto a sturdier footing and ensuring producers and processors have the tools to weather both the present and any future challenging times.”

The meeting follows in the wake of hectic lobbying activity, carried out by all the UK’s farming organisations, to secure more aid for farmers striving to cope with extremely depressed food commodity markets. Recent days have seen the Ulster Farmers’ Union meeting with Pim van Ballekom, vice president of the European Investment Bank (EIB). The UFU wants the bank to play a positive role in the 
current crisis situation facing 
farm families.

Union president, Ian Marshall, said Pim van Ballekom’s visit to Northern Ireland was welcomed. His presence added to the recent confirmation from the EU farm commissioner, Phil Hogan, that he was making it a priority to get the EIB involved in new funding arrangements for the 
agriculture industry.

Marshall said: “In particular, we pressed the case that while the EIB’s traditional focus is on long-term investing in businesses, the need for now is to create a plan based on dealing with the challenging situation on many farms via the EIB structures.

“Pim van Ballekom agreed the crisis in agriculture, and the growing pressure from Phil Hogan and many of the EU’s member state Governments for action, confirmed that radical solutions were needed for difficult times in farming.

“We also highlighted the need for speedy action at a regional level so that we can make rapid progress here in Northern Ireland to help ease the financial pressure on farms.”

Marshall also pointed out that it is vital the Northern Ireland agri-food industry come forward with proposals to the EIB that are best suited to address local issues.