MID-Ulster Ulster Unionist MLA Sandra Overend has called on consumers to support Northern Ireland produce.
She commented: “At the present time farmers are finding it difficult, with the effects of bad weather last year and increasing feed prices hitting them hard. Figures released reveal that farm incomes have been slashed by more than 50 per cent in the last year, which is extremely worrying for the industry. The sheer scale of this collapse in earnings is disastrous, and could have dire consequences for thousands of jobs.
“Further up the production line local processors are also feeling squeezed, with their desire to give farmers a fair price under pressure due to supermarkets wanting increasingly cheaper products on the shelves.
“The EU, the government, and the supermarkets have responsibilities to ensure the continuing sustainability of the food supply chain, but shoppers can also do their bit. With some of the finest and freshest ingredients available anywhere in the world, we produce world class meat, vegetables and fruit here, and I would urge consumers to look out for goods that are produced and grown in Northern Ireland in the supermarkets. If these products are not widely on display I would encourage shoppers to ask the supermarket to stock more local produce.”
Mrs Overend, who is the Ulster Unionist Party’s Economy spokesperson, continued: “The recent appointment of a UK-wide Grocery Adjudicator to enforce the Groceries Code of Practice is an encouraging development for the industry, and will hopefully ensure the fair distribution of profits right down the supply chain to the processors and producers.
“During this continued period of economic difficulty it is important to spend money locally where its benefits can be widely felt. The stringent EU standards enforced on the farming industry here mean that Northern Ireland produce is guaranteed to be of the highest quality; and with recent controversies over food contents, it is reassuring to know exactly what goes into your food. For all these reasons I am calling on consumers to back Northern Ireland produce.”