COMMENT: It’s a question of balance?

Lynas Foodservice hasn’t exactly endeared itself to many local dairy farmers this week, on the back of the company’s claims that it is having difficulty bringing in mozzarella cheese from GB.

Sunday, 21st March 2021, 12:00 pm

Northern Ireland is, of course, home to one of Europe’s largest mozzarella plants, courtesy of the Glanbia operation at Magheralin.

Additional claims made by Lynas to the effect that they are having difficulties bringing chips in from the Netherlands has also rubbed salt into the wounds of local potato producers. Last week, Farming Life highlighted the plight of farmers who grow potatoes exclusively for the catering and service sectors here.

All these growers now find themselves without a market for their produce, given the continuing shut down of the catering sectors. The only option available to the farmers in question is that of selling their potatoes for stock feed.

The impact of the Northern Ireland Protocol seems to be taking centre stage in all of these discussions. Let me give another example. The end of January was marked by the various cattle breed societies claiming that breeders here could no longer participate in all of the top sales across in GB, again because of the Protocol.

Yet recent weeks have seen the pages of Farming Life and other agri publications festooned with pictures of cattle breeders from Northern Ireland who have received top prices for their animals at most of the big sales held in England and Scotland since the turn of the year. For the record, all the farmers featured in the photos had big smiles on their faces.

Last time I checked, Northern Ireland has a population of 1.8m people: the population of the EU-27 extends to 447.7m. Yet according to Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) officials in Belfast, checks linked to the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol are now accounting for one fifth of all EU-related import inspections.

Huge volumes of milk continue to move freely from farms in Northern Ireland to factories in the Republic for processing. The same principle holds where half a million lambs produced in Northern Ireland are concerned. None of this would be allowed to happen, if the Protocol had not been agreed.