Producers and processors urged to engage

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SDLP MP Margaret Ritchie is encouraging farmers and processors to engage with the Supply Chain Forum on the sheep and lamb exports slowdown.

The Agri-Food Strategy Board will hold the first meeting of its Supply Chain Forum on October 14, at Loughry Campus, Cookstown.

Ms Ritchie explained: “This Supply Chain Forum is aimed at positioning the entire sector through effective communication, so that each part of the supply chain is focused on meeting the requirements of the consumer.

“As such it is vital, that those suffering financially as a result of the slowdown of the North/South sheep and lamb export trade, make their concerns known to the Agi-Food Strategy Board through this forum and look for answers as to how farmers and processors will be given the tools they need to deliver the consumer focused supply chain that will improve the export market with the south of Ireland.

“The issue of labelling is central to the slowdown in trade with the south and labelling is a consumer driven issue.

“The DARD minister has confirmed that she continues to work with Minister Coveney to identify workable solutions on labelling that suit everyone. However, the perceived lack of urgency on this by both Governments, the weakened euro, and this year’s high level of lambs in the south tells us that more must be done if we are to overcome the downturn in this vital export market.

“I will continue to push DEFRA on the issue of labelling and have raised the need, in Committee, for DEFRA to respond to the unique needs of farmers in Northern Ireland when it comes to requiring flexibility on labelling, in order to meet the needs of consumers in the south of Ireland and in the UK.”