The Ulster Farmers’ Union says it is increasingly concerned by the misrepresentation of Northern Ireland’s livestock industry and in particular, the myth that livestock numbers here have increased.
The comments were made following an event hosted by a local community action group in County Fermanagh where UFU deputy president, David Brown, was a guest speaker.
David Brown said: “We regularly work with groups that operate outside mainstream agriculture, but often it quickly becomes clear they don’t have all the facts when it comes to modern agriculture. It can be somewhat of a revelation when we get the opportunity to explain our businesses and correct misinformation. This is particularly true when it comes to livestock numbers.
“Many people think numbers have increased over the years when in fact the opposite is true and we actually have less livestock in Northern Ireland than we did in the past.”
Census figures from DAERA show a 50 per cent reduction in pig numbers between 1965 and 2018, a 3 per cent reduction in breeding cows between 1994 and 2018, and a 33 per cent reduction in breeding sheep between 1998 and 2018.
Mr Brown says these figures reflect market changes and modernising of Northern Ireland’s agriculture industry.
“Agriculture plays a crucial role in Northern Ireland’s economy. We are the cornerstone of the agri-food industry, which turns over £4.8 billion annually and accounts for 32 per cent of total manufacturing sales.
“However, there are further opportunities for farmers in our home market.
“With the UK only 55 per cent self-sufficient in pig meat, and 75 per cent in both poultry and beef, there are gaps in the markets we can fill with our locally produced, high-quality meat rather than relying on imports from countries that are possibly not required to meet our same high animal welfare and environmental standards,” said the deputy president.