UFU highlights the need to retain a vibrant arable sector

A vibrant and sustainable arable sector must be retained at the very heart of local agriculture, according Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) seeds and cereals’ committee chairman Mark McCollum.

He added: “This is a message that must be communicated to both the public and livestock farmers.

“Arable farmers here continue to produce grain and protein crops of the highest quality. What’s more the carbon footprint and food miles associated with this produce is so much lower than that of imported alternatives.

“Northern Ireland’s consumers buy-in to the principles associated with total food provenance from farm to fork. The role that locally grown grains and other crops can play in this context is immense.”

Farming Life news
Farming Life news
Farming Life news

Mr McCollum attended the 2023 ‘Agronomy and Business conference for Arable Growers. The event was held at the at the Greenmount campus of the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (CAFRE) in Co Antrim earlier this week.

He further explained: “The conference provided a number of speakers with the opportunity to discuss a range of new technologies designed to allow for the more efficient use of crop inputs.

“Last year saw arable farmers enjoying one of the most successful harvest on record. However, growers are now facing into a new season with the prospect of grain prices slipping and all crop input costs remaining extremely high.

“So the issue of arable farmers making best use of crop inputs is extremely important, nit just now but into the future.”

The union representative flagged up the fact that a number of farmers in Northern Ireland before Christmas with recent weeks having seen commodity markets weakening to some extent.

“It all adds up to a number of growers using very expensive fertiliser over the coming months.

“And, obviously, this will put real pressure on their margins.”

On the up side, Mr McCollum is quick to point to the roll-over of the Protein Aid scheme for 2023. He believes the measure will further encourage the growing of crops such as spring beans.

“Increasing diversity within the arable sector will help to maintain its important role at the very heart of local agriculture,” he stressed.

“New technologies are helping to expand the ways in which locally produced cereals and protein crops can be fed to livestock.

“There are also growing opportunities to develop niche development opportunities, where the growing of crops is concerned.

Greer McCollum concluded: “Developing these opportunities will help stabilise and, hopefully, expand the production base of arable farming here in Northern Ireland.”