New international markets open for NI beef and pork

UFU annual meeting at Greenmount. Picture: Cliff Donaldson
UFU annual meeting at Greenmount. Picture: Cliff Donaldson

Northern Ireland pork and beef producers have been given a huge boost to start 2016 with confirmation that trading has started with two international markets - India and Canada.

Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle O’Neill announced yesterday that India and Canada will soon savour the high quality pork and beef produced in Northern Ireland.

The minister said: “I am delighted that our agri-food industry has began trading with two of the vital new markets we established in 2015. Firstly we secured agreement with the Indian authorities to export our high quality pork and I was pleased to note that the first shipment arrived in port at the end of December.

“Our beef sector is also preparing to trade with the newly opened Canadian market. India is one of the largest and fastest growing economies in the world while accessing the established Canadian market is of great importance to our beef exporters.”

The minister continued: “Entering these new important markets marks a great start to exports in 2016. I am delighted that industry is taking advantage of these important opportunities we have been able to secure. I anticipate that this trend will continue and I expect further uplifts in exports when final approval to export pork to China is secured.”

Illustrating the ongoing work within the Department to access a range of further new market opportunities for the local agri-food sector, the Minister said: “In order to build on our successes to date, we are working closely with the industry to ensure readiness for inward inspections to access the US and Philippine markets for beef and Australia for pork.

“I am also hoping that negotiations will advance this year on extending our export agreements with China to cover poultry meat and beef. I, and my officials, continue to work closely with our vital agri-food industry going forward to meet the requirements to export and identify further priority markets.

“Accessing new markets for agri-food exports from the north remains one of my key priorities. I trust that our industry will avail of the many markets we have already secured as we strive to open more as I am sure this will help them achieve the ambitious growth aspirations set out in the Agri-Food Strategy, Going for Growth.”

Concluding minister O’Neill added: “Trading with new countries, I hope, will also help to mitigate the negative impacts of price volatility and exchange rate fluctuations our industry have faced. Finally, I hope that the benefits of these new markets will spread across the supply chain.”

UFU Deputy President Ivor Ferguson described the news as another positive step for the agri-food industry in Northern Ireland.

He said: “The Ulster Farmers’ Union has identified access to new markets as one of the key objectives for our members and we are pleased that DARD has worked hard with industry to gain access to Canada for beef and the Indian market for pork.”

However Mr Ferguson was cautious stating that ‘currency and demand’ would play their part in determining how successful the markets would be.

He continued: “Currency and demand in these markets will ultimately be major factors which affect the success of these initiatives but I think it is important to understand that this is a long term strategy and the more markets we have available to us, the better the position our industry will be in whenever opportunities arise.

“At the minute we are heavily reliant on the UK market and while it will undoubtedly remain the main destination for our produce, DARD and DEFRA must prioritise trade developments outside of the EU where there is demand for the high quality produce which we know farmers in Northern Ireland will deliver.”