‘The last year has been a bumpy ride but there is cause for optimism’

As the final preparations for the 2021 Balmoral Show in partnership with Ulster Bank get underway, I have been reflecting on the past 18 months and looking back on all the challenges farmers have overcome.

Tuesday, 21st September 2021, 8:30 am

This week all roads will lead to Balmoral but for many farmers and producers, the last year has been a bumpy ride.

That said, there is much cause for optimism and as we enter the Show week it is important to remain upbeat. In many ways, the pandemic has given the public a greater awareness of how just important farmers are to their daily lives and shone the spotlight on work that had previously gone unnoticed.

Farmers were rightly recognised as key workers as they continued to provide high-quality produce to feed the nation. Everything we had been saying about the importance of food security and using our own resources to protect and maintain food production came to light and consumers began to see the value in becoming more self-sufficient.

While the public perception of farmers may have improved, there are still those pointing the finger of blame at this industry when it comes to addressing climate change. Northern Ireland’s agricultural sector has already proven that it can be a leader in the face of these challenges and we want to see greater recognition that farmers can be part of the solution in reducing carbon emissions. The sector accepts its responsibility and we will work with all of our customers to help them implement a fit for purpose environment strategy within their own businesses.

On top of everything else, issues around Brexit and the NI Protocol have continued to put pressure on the industry, and while there is a clearer understanding of the direction of travel, farmers are still having to plough through the challenges. Thankfully groups such as the Ulster Farmers’ Union are making solid representations on behalf of the industry, but it is crucial that flexibilities are found to protect our integral supply chain and enviable food standards.

With so much going on in the background, it’s fair to say farmers deserve a few days off from all the noise and should make the most of the opportunity to return to Balmoral Park for the Show. Tributes must be paid to the RUAS for their hard work and efforts to deliver the event during these uncertain times and ensuring all of the necessary safety measures are in place. The four days of the Balmoral Show are a chance for the sector to put its best foot forward, promote our fantastic story and build on our world class reputation even further.

Our teams will be on site for the duration talking to farmers about the meaningful help we are continuing to provide for the wider agri-industry. We are rolling out support packages and working closely with business owners to find the best solutions for their needs. Throughout the four days of Balmoral we will be profiling our brand new cheque-scanning feature which will allow farmers, and indeed all business owners, to lodge cheques using our Ulster Bank Business App. It’s one example of how we are using the latest technology to make things easier for our customers and an area we hope to develop even further.

With such a packed agenda, I have no doubt there will be many useful conversations and important business being done at Balmoral. I am looking forward to catching up with colleagues, customers and friends and discussing how we can work together and continue to support one another and our industry now and into the future.