Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson recently visited the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) headquarters located at Newforge, Belfast.
During the visit, Mr Nicholson met with recently appointed AFBI chief executive Dr Sinclair Mayne and Professor John Davis, director of the organisation’s agricultural and food economics team.
A range of issues were discussed during the meeting, including the recently published Sustainable Agricultural Land Management Strategy, AFBI’s on-going scientific research across its divisions plus the potential implications of Brexit for the Northern Ireland agri-food sector and for UK science and research.
Commenting after the visit, Mr Nicholson said: “My recent meeting with Dr Sinclair Mayne and Professor John Davis was a welcome opportunity to discuss AFBI’s work and future priorities.
“Since its creation in 2006 the research, diagnostics and analysis carried out by AFBI and the organisation’s partners have helped to provide scientific solutions to a range of problems affecting all aspects of the Northern Ireland agri-food sector. AFBI’s customers include Northern Ireland and UK departments and agencies plus local, national and international commercial companies - it was useful to get an overview of this broad range of work.”
The recently published Sustainable Agricultural Land Management Strategy was also discussed. The report sets out how strategic land management is key for improving environmental sustainability and agricultural productivity in Northern Ireland.
Commenting on the report, Mr Nicholson said: “I welcome that research areas such as; increasing productivity from local grassland farms and sustainable livestock farming continue to be key aspects of AFBI’s work. These areas of work link in with the expert working group’s report on land management – as is the case in any particular field taking a joined-up approach to address the challenges facing the agri-food sector and environment makes sense.
“Research also informs policy development and I was particularly interested to learn more about AFBI’s economic modelling and analysis in relation to the potential implications of the UK’s exit from the EU for the agri-food sector.
“AFBI, the UK’s universities and colleges and many businesses have benefitted from their involvement in research projects with EU partners through initiatives such as Horizon 2020. As the Brexit negotiations unfold I am acutely aware that continued access to these opportunities to collaborate is an important issue for the UK’s research and business communities – as is their ability to attract and retain international researchers and scientists.”
Mr Nicholson concluded: “I want to thank Dr Mayne and Professor Davis for taking the time to meet with me recently – it was very useful to get an update in relation to AFBI’s work and recent developments.”