New Northern Ireland Grain Trade Association (NIGTA) president, Michael McAree, has confirmed that 2017 was another year of strong growth for the animal feed processing sector.
Speaking at the organisation’s annual dinner he said that the industry had secured record output levels in 2017, adding: “We have also seen a very strong start to 2018. This is a welcome trend that has been sustained for the past 20 years.”
He continued: “The development of the agri-food sector in Northern Ireland is impressive. Based on a highly efficient and well managed livestock sector, it is the major success story in our economy. Output has grown through efficiencies on the farm, better genetics, improved nutrition and more integrated supply chains.
“Our trade has supported this growth through investment, not just in terms of plant and equipment but in research and development.
“We have also seen the establishment of robust quality systems to protect the food chain. This has been matched with the training of people to produce better nutritional solutions and to deliver the technical support for the industry.”
McAree confirmed that local food businesses now market three-quarters of their product outside of the Northern Ireland.
He said: “For every consumer we feed in Northern Ireland, we provide for two in mainland UK and another one in the wider world.
“While this is a triumph for our industry and for our food marketeers it does bring its challenges.
“Our industry carries the environmental footprint of food consumed beyond our shores as well that of our local customers.”
According to McAree, sustainability has been a major theme as the feed compounding industry has grown.
“As a trade we recognise that the efficient use of inputs and the reduction of emissions to our atmosphere and waterways are key areas which we can influence.
“The Feed Advisors Register is now well established with 130 advisers now registered with the Northern Ireland network . The coming months will see the launch of a new training program specifically designed to prepare sales and advisory staff who are in daily contact with farmers to tackle the environmental challenges faced by local farmers.
“They are in a unique position to deliver the key messages on nutrient efficiency, particularly in terms of feed and fertiliser inputs.
“This training has been produced in consultation with all relevant industry partners and agencies and supports the work of the land management group and the greenhouse gas action plan,” he added.
“We look forward to the roll-out of the training program over the summer months and appreciate the support of CAFRE in its delivery.”