A new course aimed at promoting a better understanding of the province’s agrifood sector has been fully subscribed for its first event.
Developed by the Northern Ireland Grain Trade Association the “Trade Awareness” course is designed particularly for new entrants to the animal feed trade and focuses on the role of businesses which supply feeds to local farmers.
The program of visits and presentations was centred on the Belfast Harbour area and featured an overview of the agri food sector – its focus on export markets and the importance of assurance systems to deliver a high level of safety and quality right along the food chain.
Joe O’Neil, commercial manager of the Belfast Harbour, outlined the vital role of imports with over two million tonnes of feed materials landed at the port every year.
The challenge of sourcing materials in the global commodity markets in the face of volatility caused by weather, currency movements, wars and political instability was discussed in detail
This was followed by a tour of the harbour stores and a visit to the MV Triton – a massive ocean going vessel just arrived from San Lorenzo in South America and laden with 45,000 tonnes of Soya Meal and Soya Hulls for local feed producers.
Compound feeds came under the spotlight at the United Feeds mill in the Harbour Estate with a tour of the production facility and presentations on quality systems and the world leading Food Fortress program developed in partnership with the Institute of Global Food Security at Queens University.
Delegates traced the growth of the agrifood sector and the expansion of feed production as farms became larger and more intensive.
As food production has become the mainstay of the local economy feed businesses have invested heavily in plant and equipment to increase capacity but also in staff training and in quality systems.
Research and development was another area where significant investments were being made to improve feed efficiency and reduce costs of production.
This was highlighted in a partnership program with Devenish and Moy Park aimed at improving the performance and environmental impact of broiler chickens through precision nutrition.
Participants on the course were enthusiastic about its value in broadening their knowledge of the feed and food chain and it is anticipated that the event will be repeated later this summer.