ULSTER Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson recently met with Robin Irvine, recently appointed chief executive and David O’Connor from the NI Grain Trade Association (NIGTA).
Speaking after the meeting Mr Nicholson said he welcomed the opportunity to meet with representatives from NIGTA.
“The issues affecting the grain and feed trade are both local and global in nature and have massive implications for our biggest export earner – the agri-food sector,” he continued.
“Recent events have shown how extreme weather in Russia, rising demand in China for soya or bio-fuel policy in the USA can quickly feed through into the price of feed and farmer input costs. Robin and David highlighted how these factors have impacted upon producers with an additional £120 million added to the cost of the two million tonnes of feed used annually by Northern Ireland’s livestock producers in recent months,” said Mr Nicholson.
“In addition to the recent poor weather, rising input costs and poor farm gate returns many farm businesses are also experiencing difficulties accessing credit.
“This credit crunch means that many farm businesses have recently found themselves victims of circumstance with no working capital – key for daily management and investing for the future.
“For the economy to overcome short term difficulties and grow it is important that viable farms and other SMEs are able to access lending services as cash flow is the lifeblood of all sectors of the economy.
™Agriculture is no different and there is a knock-on effect on all parts of the chain if lending to one link is affected – this is especially important given the recent downturn in farm incomes.
“The level of additional credit currently being carried by the feed sector in Northern Ireland –circa £25 million – very graphically illustrates the wider impact of farmers having reduced cash flows but this situation cannot continue indefinitely.”
The ongoing reform of the CAP, imbalances within the food supply chain and the use of GMO technology were also discussed.
Mr Nicholson concluded: “Given my role as an MEP I find that it is vitally important to regularly engage with industry representatives and stakeholders in all fields.
“I want to thank David and Robin for meeting with me and detailing the current concerns and recent developments in their sector as it plays such a vital role in the food supply chain and the wider Northern Ireland economy.
“I also want to take this opportunity to wish Robin well in his role as NIGTA’s chief executive.”