Agriculture Committee raises concerns for industry

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Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development today met with Westminster MPs and the Groceries Code Adjudicator to raise issues of concern to local farmers.

Committee Chairperson, William Irwin MLA, along with Jo-Anne Dobson MLA, Edwin Poots MLA and Oliver McMullan MLA met with representatives from Westminster’s Committee for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA), including local MPs, Margaret Ritchie MP and David Simpson MP. Discussions focused on the ongoing crisis of farmgate prices including dairy prices, the volatility in farming, and EFRA’s current inquiry into farmgate prices.

Speaking after the meeting, Chairperson William Irwin said: “Our meeting today proved very productive and gave us the opportunity to highlight to MPs the challenges and concerns facing our local agriculture industry. There is a huge differentiation between what our farmers receive for their product and what the supermarkets charge consumers. More needs to be done to ensure fairness within the food supply chain, to close this gap, and reduce the exploitation of farmers.”

Mr Irwin continued: “The visit also provided an opportunity for us to meet with Christine Tacon, the Groceries Code Adjudicator, whose role oversees the relationship between supermarkets and their suppliers. We discussed the importance of extending Christine’s remit to include the entire food supply chain, the dairy crisis, payment terms and labelling issues. We highlighted the recent example of a local farmer who received 8p for his turnip which the supermarket subsequently sold for 80p.”

The Chairperson concluded: “We will continue to raise our concerns at the highest level and welcome EFRA’s Inquiry into farmgate prices and hope its recommendations will alleviate the industry crisis and help relieve the growing pressure on farmers.”

At its next meeting, the Committee will hear from the last of the supermarkets chains operating in Northern Ireland – LIDI on 24 November 2015