UFU Arable and horticulture committee plan ahead for 2021

Seeds and cereals chair Mark McCollumSeeds and cereals chair Mark McCollum
Seeds and cereals chair Mark McCollum
UAS/CAFRE & UFU arable conference - 20 January 2021

UAS/CAFRE & UFU arable conference - 20 January 2021

The conference in 2021 will be a webinar and will include short videos from local professionals such as potato, vegetable and cereal farmers. 

Our conference will be streamed from the home farm of Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) seeds and cereals chair Mark McCollum.

Those who participate will have a live opportunity to engage with the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) Minister Edwin Poots. Further details will be released over the coming weeks. 

UFU continue to monitor retail behaviour in the fresh produce isles

With quality local produce grown by Northern Ireland’s (NI) best potato and vegetable farmers available, the UFU are actively monitoring retail and are paying special attention to price and country of origin on produce labels. The UFU have been advised that stocks of quality potatoes and seasonal vegetables are available over Christmas and longer term into the new year. 

The processing potato trade remains slow and problematic for some and the UFU continue to monitor the situation on the ground for these growers.  

The COVID-19 potato processing package is ongoing, and farmers are asked to please respond to any requests from DAERA regarding outstanding documentation and evidence to help progress individual claims. 

The UFU also ask members to check their junk boxes just in case DAERA requests have gone direct to junk mail. 

Safeguarding high-grade plant health status on the island of Ireland

The UFU and Irish Farmers Association (IFA) potato committees have called on Governments and the European Union (EU) to support, safeguard and protect the high-grade plant health status on the island of Ireland. With many differing opinions and interpretations of legal text about future movement of potatoes, the UFU and IFA potato policy committees fear that unchecked movements of potatoes onto the island of Ireland would be reckless.  

Both the UFU potato policy chair Robert Sibbett and Thomas McKeown IFA potato committee chair, have asked for a commitment that the EU will enforce the letter of the law. This is to ensure that all the necessary sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) checks and 100 percent physical checks for all potatoes transiting onto the island of Ireland are carried out.

The letter highlighted that plant health and the protection of our high-grade health status is paramount. Any threat of brown rot, ring rot, potato cyst nematode (PCN) and Dickeya (black leg) which are all notifiable diseases and not dissimilar to Foot and Mouth, have the potential to have a devastating effect on the potato industry on this island.  

Representatives across the island agreed that all efforts and necessary controls to safeguard plant health and animal health in Ireland will be critical moving forward. The letter highlighted that whilst some controls are in place, at a recent meeting a NI DAERA official explained in detail that even with the current systems in place undetected consignments of diseased potato did get into the region thus threatening our industry and plant health credentials. It is the opinion of the UFU and IFA potato committees that now is the right time to exercise due diligence and protect the high-grade status which our producers have been strong ambassadors and custodians over the years. 

We now understand that the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has made an application on behalf of DAERA to the EU. This is in regard to equivalence for seed potato imports and more recently, requested an additional derogation from the EU on plant health prohibition grounds for the movements of all seed and ware potato movements into NI.    

It is the opinion of the UFU and IFA potato committees that such movements must be subject to all plant health legislation and physical controls in transit. Intelligence suggests that the EU is now considering allowing ‘brushed’ ware potatoes in the detail of legal text thus causing further concern. Brushed potatoes still have soil attached which when further processing occurs can find its way into the water system, animal feed, peeling etc and transferred around farms. These soil traces among other things will carry PCN which is a major problem in some other areas and if not managed and checked will impact our plant health status.

Both chairmen have warned that not applying one hundred percent SPS and physical checks on all potato imports would be very reckless. It would increase the risk of bringing in disease that would have serious plant health issues longer term.


Planning for the Future

All UFU arable and horticulture committees are discussing their sector needs for future agriculture support. Collectively these sectors within UFU have partnered with UAS and have commission work to agree a strategy for the future growth and support measures for all these sectors. This work is ongoing. 

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.