Agriculture doesn’t have a pause button.
While the uncertainties facing the industry multiply and are now at an all time high, crops have to be planted, animals have to be fed and the cows milked.
The daily, weekly, monthly and yearly cycles have to carry on. The advice put forward by a DEFRA official, to not put the rams with the ewes this year until we see what happens, is not a policy which can be realistically adopted.
In Northern Ireland, the agriculture and food industry is a significant element of the local economy with 70,000 people employed in providing and processing in the agri-food supply chain.
Ulster Farmers’ Union President Ivor Ferguson is battling to ensure a future for the industry in Northern Ireland. The negotiations relating to Brexit are uncharted waters but it is vital that a sustainable outcome is achieved.
Addressing the members of Strangford Down Beef and Lamb Group, Ivor highlighted the issues facing the future of the agri-food industry.
The UFU has 11,500 members but the union represents all farmers and is particularly keen to encompass the interests of young farmers.
Looking at Brexit with the business hat on, the no deal scenario would be a nightmare. With farming well down the priority list at Westminster and no government from the house on the hill, a strong voice is necessary to put the case for an industry which is woven into the fabric of life and community in Northern Ireland.
There is no getting away from the fact that we all, the entire population, are involved as either providers or partakers of the agri-food industry. It will affect everybody.
Ivor is a sheep farmer himself and a supplier of lambs through the Armagh lamb group.
An export tariff on lambs would devastate an industry which has been carefully developed over recent decades with quality assurance, supply chain traceability and an integrated approach with direct feedback from the meat plants.
Strangford Down supplies lambs to Linden Foods and over the past year around 17,000 lambs have been provided by group members. Gary Foster, lamb procurement manager at Linden Foods and Alan Montgomery and Crosby Cleland of Strangford Down coordinate the supply of lambs each week, negotiate on price and organise transport of lambs to the factory. Gary specifies that the factory needs quality assured, in spec lambs and has built up a good working relationship with Strangford Down and can be confident that the group will provide the specification needed to maintain the supply for the supermarket outlets.
Benefits to the producer include free haulage and rapid feedback on grades.
Strangford Down has four loading points for lambs in County Down and supplies Linden Foods in Dungannon on a weekly basis. Lambs are booked in with the Strangford Down co-ordinator, the lambs are collected from the four points, delivered to the factory and the grades are sent out by email that afternoon. Strangford Down also operates as a buying group and deals are available on fuel with AEG and meal from Thompsons.
Business Executive Crosby Cleland can be contacted on 07525237233 and will be happy to provide further information on the services available through Strangford Down.