Ulster Farmers’ Union president, Ian Marshall, has used his speech at the UFU’s annual dinner to urge hard pressed farming families to stay positive about the future of the industry.
He said that while every farm business was now going through tough times, the industry remained central to the local economy – and was an industry that had beaten difficult times in the past.
“We know farming is cyclical – but what the industry is going through now is the deepest trough that most of us can remember in a farming generation,” he said.
“Despite that we have a lot going for us. We are farmers because that’s what we want to be – and we are an industry proud of what we produce and of the fact that we underpin the local food industry,” said the UFU president.
Underlining that food is the biggest private sector employer in Northern Ireland, its biggest export earner and the biggest sector of the economy, Mr Marshall said this made it important that everyone joined in with the year-long celebration of local food and drink.
“We have made clear right from the planning stage that farmers are fully on board with the Year of Food and Drink. We are delighted consumers support our products. They do so because they know the good food story of Northern Ireland starts with farm families,” he said.
He added that in tough times the industry needed to remember that the growing public interest in food had earned farmers a new level of respect in society.
“It’s easy to say that respect doesn’t pay the bills we face because prices are below the level of production – but it’s an asset other industries would give their eye teeth to have,” said the UFU president.