Currency changes should be delivering better prices for local farmers

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The recent weakening of the Euro against Sterling should be delivering better prices for farmers in Northern Ireland, according to Ulster Farmers’ Union chief executive Wesley Aston.

Speaking on day one of this year’s Balmoral Show, he said that fears of a Brexit had led to a significant strengthening of the Euro against the Pound.

“This should act to make food exports out of Northern Ireland more competitive while making food imports into the UK from the Euro zone more expensive. But, in many ways, the opposite is happening,” he said.

“Beef prices in the Republic of Ireland are actually higher at the present time than those available locally. And this should not be the case. Yes, farmgate prices across a wide range of sectors have stabilised here in Northern Ireland over recent weeks. But that’s not really good enough, particularly given the real pressure on farm incomes at the present time.”

Aston confirmed that the Union is working on a number of fronts to secure enhanced support levels for the various farming sectors.

“The EU is indicating that additional intervention and private storage aid measures may be introduced over the coming weeks,” he added.

“This should have a beneficial impact on the dairy and pig sectors. But, fundamentally, we need to see a realistic strengthening of commercial markets across the board.

“EU agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan visited Northern Ireland earlier this week, and we made it very clear to him that Brussels must do more to aid the plight of local farmers.”

Aston confirmed that the Union continues to work closely with the banks in order to develop new financing arrangements for agriculture.

“Our aim is to deliver greater levels of sustainability for the industry moving forward. This is very much part of an ongoing process.

“There will be opportunities for the European Investment Bank to provide direct and indirect funding opportunities for farming and food in Northern Ireland.

“This may well involve the forging of a close working relationships between the organisation and the Stormont Executive. Individual food processing operations and agribusinesses should also be in a position to secure funding from the European Investment Bank over the coming months.”

Commenting on the relevance of Balmoral Show for agriculture, Aston said that the event represented a valuable shop window for the industry.

“Consumers want to know more about the way in which their food is produced,” he said. “And Balmoral Show plays a crucial role in this regard.”