Agri-food ‘rising costs taskforce’ meets

The Rising Costs Industry Taskforce has held another meeting as it strives to ensure consistent advisory messaging across a wide range of Agri-Food Stakeholders.

Since the group was established in April 2022, members have endeavoured to ensure that appropriate help and advice is made available to the Northern Ireland industry.

These activities have included a range of advisory articles issued to the printed press, a dedicated website page at: www.cafre.ac.uk, an industry wide late spring survey and 16 on-farm events hosted by College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE), supported by taskforce members.

During the summer taskforce members have been gathering information around silage quality, animal movements and the potential impact of various scenarios on farms this coming winter. This work continues with the launch of an autumn survey to establish farmers plans and preparation for the winter period. Results from the survey will define advisory messages and the support needed over the coming months. The survey was designed by AgriSearch and Ulster Farmer’s Union with input from all taskforce members.

Rising cost industry taskforce in-person attendees at 5 September meeting. Front row L-R: Gill Gallagher (NIGTA), Paul McHenry (Chair, CAFRE), Joanne Dale (DAERA), Mark Scott (CAFRE), Rodney Brown (Danske Bank), Louise Millsopp (DAERA), Wesley Aston (UFU), Back row L-R: Mike Johnston (Dairy Council for Northern Ireland), Clodagh Crowe (Rural Support), Caroline Doyle (Barclays Bank), Jason Rankin (AgriSearch) and Conall Donnelly (NIMEA). Online attendees Cormac McKervey (Ulster Bank), James Lowe (NIAPA), Sam Strain (AHWNI) and Peter Simpson (CAFRE) and Steven Morrison (AFBI).

The survey is now open and can be accessed at: www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/GNRBP58. All organisations involved in the Rising Costs Industry Taskforce will be sharing a link to the survey encouraging all farmers to participate.

Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) president David Brown commented: “In March 2022, the UFU called for government and in particular DAERA, to put contingency plans in place and establish a Northern Ireland (NI) Agriculture Task Force to address the impact that Russia’s invasion in Ukraine is having on global supplies. DAERA subsequently listened to the UFU and set up this taskforce with the UFU alongside other industry stakeholders, to provide information.

“The vital work of the Taskforce has been limited because in the absence of an Executive, the DAERA Minister does not have the authority to make an allocation of funds in relation to rolling out support for farming sectors. Our members have been very appreciative of receiving the Single Farm Payment earlier than usual this year, but it must be highlighted that with the increasing cost of energy and fertiliser, it is not enough to cover input expenses never mind maintain a home. This is why getting additional support agreed upon by the Executive is so important.

“It is hoped that through the work of the Taskforce, and if and when the Executive gets up and running again, DAERA has the industry intel as to how support should be rolled out. Hopefully, this will be sooner rather than later as some commodity prices have failed to keep up with unprecedented input prices.”