South Down MP Margaret Ritchie has hosted visit of the Westminster EFRA Committee Chair Neil Parish to ABP in Newry.
Speaking after Friday’s meeting Ms Ritchie said ABP and the relationship it has with our agricultural and rural community is pivotal to our farming families and local industry. T
She added: “This visit by Neil Parish MP, Chair of the Westminster EFRA Select Committee, of which I am a member, was an opportunity for Mr Parish to hear first-hand the specific needs of the local processing and farming industry in Northern Ireland.
“Unlike England, Northern Ireland has a farming industry which is dependent on small farms, of approximately 23 hectares in size. This is different to the model of large scale farms and farming enterprises in England where the nature of farming and size are on a very different scale. The processing model is also different in Northern Ireland compared to what exists in England, and the demands and requirements are particularly unique in Northern Ireland.
“The Chair of the EFRA Select Committee, Neil Parish MP listened to how it is therefore vital for our beef and lamb producers who are the customers of ABP that they gain and obtain the very maximum value for their animals when they are presented for slaughter, and how this high quality animal provides ABP and the Northern Ireland food industry with a unique and top quality food product. “Furthermore, it was also important that this visit took place in that 2016 is the year of Food in Northern Ireland, and we need to utilise every opportunity to engender and promote interest in our locally produced high quality food – whether it is in the red meat sector or vegetables to order to fuel economic growth and productivity.
“In this context, it is therefore vital that the Chair of the EFRA Select Committee, Neil Parish MP understands and appreciates the unique farming model in Northern Ireland in terms of the role of the farm producers through processors to retailers, and above all the importance of agriculture to the local rural economy.
“Today, he was given a clear presentation on the farm produce supply chain and the inter-relationship between each sector which concentrated on the farmer, processor and retailer as decisions taken by the DEFRA in Westminster through the Secretary of State for EFRA, Elizabeth Truss who is Mr Parish’s Tory Party colleague, directly impact on our farmers and the food processing industry here in Northern Ireland.”