Sustainable food prices a priority

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Addressing the 2015 Farming Life and Danske Bank Awards Finance Minister Arlene Foster confirmed that the current cash flow challenge facing the majority of farm sectors is a result of an over-supply in many of the food producing regions of the world.

“Other factors impacting on producer returns include a weakening of the Euro compared to Sterling and on-going deflation in food prices being caused by the multiple retailers,” she said.

“I believe that the retailers need to look beyond their balance sheets and look at where they are going to get their food supply of the future. We as an industry need to work with the retailers for getting an outlet for our goods produced here in Northern Ireland and we need to get more and more of our products on the ‎shelves in Great Britain but we need them to realise that there is only so much they can squeeze the sector.

“I know this is an issue that the Chair of the Agricultural Committee, William Irwin, is currently looking into through the ARD Committee.”

Foster added that the Stormont Executive is committed to doing everything possible to help farmers through the immediate financial crisis, but is also mindful of the longer-term challenges and how they need to be addressed.

“I am glad to see that DARD has announced that they will be issuing single farm payments in early December. I hope that the majority of payments can be issued in the first couple of weeks to ensure that cash flows to the farms that are under financial pressure.

“I would also call on the banks to work constructively with the industry. I would like to put on record my thanks to Danske and the other agricultural banks who have worked constructively with the sector over the last 12 months on the vast majority of cases. I hope they will continue to work with the sector until we emerge from the current difficulties.”

The Minister concluded: “We need to continue to work collaboratively with our farmers, processors and retailers to lay the foundations upon which we can build a more innovative, competitive and most importantly sustainable agri-food sector for the future.

“That is how we will become more resilient in a competitive, and volatile, global market. It will also leave our farmers well placed to meet the needs of a growing global population – and to reap the rewards.”