BYGONE DAYS: Hopes grow for aid for province from the EC

With Italy seeking an extension of the EEC levy abatement on feed grain imports hopes had been raised that Northern Ireland may get some aid to help cut feed costs which were higher in the province than the rest of the United Kingdom reported the Farming Life during this week in 1980.

Saturday, 24th April 2021, 11:00 am
The Simmental bull of Robert Gamble, Bangor, which was awarded the 'Bull of the Day' championship at the Automart Spring Show and Sale at Portadown in April 1980. Picture: Farming Life archives

Speaking at the annual dinner of the Northern Ireland Grain Trade Association, Dr James Young, head of the Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture, pointed out that 80 per cent of the province’s cereal requirements had to be bought outside of Northern Ireland.

The EEC Commission’s study of cereal prices in different countries of the EEC, he said, had shown that costs and prices in Northern Ireland were among the highest.

“Neither the Commission nor the Council of Ministers has yet taken a decision on what action, if any, should follow the study but Italy, which has been getting a levy abatement on feed grain imports is seeking an extension of this from the beginning of the 1980-81 cereals year.”

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The Charolais champion bull at the Automart Spring Show and Sale at Portadown in April 1980 was shown by Samuel McIlwaine, Enagh Farm, Londonderry. Picture: Farming Life archives


Dr Young said: “At this stage I can say that the United Kingdom government and this department, are watching closely bearing in mind the importance of our pig and poultry industries in Northern Ireland.”

Turning to the compounders Dr Young said: “Apart from anything that government and the EEC authorities may or may not be able to do to help I am sure you will be doing everything possible to keep prices to producers as low as you can and that you will not be missing any opportunities of buying raw materials to the best advantage, using levy-free cereal substitutes where practicable and minimising your operational costs.”


One of the pedigree cows is led into the ring for auction t the Automart Spring Show and Sale at Portadown in April 1980. Picture: Farming Life archives

He added: “As there are clear limits to the steps government can take to help it is all the more important that those whose interests are at stake, that is you the compounders, the producers and the processors and packers, should continue your efforts to minimise costs and maximise returns. I appreciate that this is easier to say than to do but it may be that there is still scope for some improvements through still greater co-operation between these three parts of the industry.”

At the outset Dr Young said that they were all conscious that the agricultural industry was “going through a relatively difficult period” because costs had been rising faster than returns.

Although producers in particular were looking to the EEC Council of Ministers’ deliberations on the 1980 farm price package for some comfort they were conscious of the fact that the scope for improvement in net returns was “somewhat limited” because of surplus production of a number of the products.

Producers in the United Kingdom were also conscious of the fact that following four devaluations of the Green Pound in 1979 in the international value of the pound sterling there was also no longer scope for improving their particular position through further Green Pound devaluations.

The Friesian champion bull at the Automart Spring Show and Sale at Portadown in April 1980 was exhibited by Robert Mulligan, Banbridge. At the halter is Norman Hutchinson. Picture: Farming Life archives


Dr Young pointed out that the Northern Ireland agricultural industry’s total output was approximately 7 per cent of the United Kingdom industry as a whole.

But that Northern Ireland used about 10 per cent of the compound feedingstuffs produced in the United Kingdom.

During 1979 the members of the association had produced approximately 1¼ million tonnes of compound animal feedingstuffs and of this about 60 per cent was used for pigs and poultry.

A section of the crowded sale ring during the auction of pedigree cattle at the Automart Spring Show and Sale at Portadown in April 1980. Picture: Farming Life archives

“The fact that 80 per cent of our cereal requirements must be bought outside Northern Ireland has created a problem in recent years,” said Dr Young.

“Levies on Third Country grain prevent us from taking advantage of relatively cheap supplies on the world market.

“Our home-grown supplies are too small to put any downward pressure on the prices as happens in Great Britain and I doubt if we can expect a substantial increase in cereal production even with the advent of new varieties, better techniques and a swing to winter barley.”

He added: “It looks therefore as though a substantial proportion of our requirements will continue to come from England and France and, because of transport charges, will therefore be more costly in Northern Ireland than in Great Britain.”