The business community in Northern Ireland has thrown its weight behind the agri sector as it prepares for its protest at Stormont.
As farmers from all areas of the industry prepare to protest today at the growing threats to livelihoods in the province’s rural communities, the head of one major organisation Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Stephen McCully saidthey had the full backing of thei r peers in other sectors.
“NI Chamber has a very strong membership across agri-food industry which continues to be a key driver of the local economy delivering export led economic growth for the region,” he said.
“It is worth £4.5 billion and employs almost 100,000 people. Around 70 per cent of all sales are outside Northern Ireland.
“However in recent weeks dairy farmers have warned that they are facing their worst crisis in decades and other agri-food sectors are impacted upon.
Adding further to the overall problem, he said exporters across the board were struggling with a euro historically weak against sterling.
“This is making exports difficult for our local businesses and giving Eurozone suppliers a big competitive advantage.”
“Therefore... NI Chamber supports our colleagues in the agri-food sector who are seeking to send a very clear message to the European Commission concerning the seriousness of the situation they face.”
Calling on the entire agri-food industry to turn out for the demonstration, UFU president Ian Marshall said it was vital to send a clear message to the European Commission, ahead of an emergency meeting of the Agriculture Council.
“People in Northern Ireland understand the importance of a vibrant food industry to the local economy – our aim is to make sure this message is heard in Brussels.
“We do not want to be in a situation where the farm commissioner, Phil Hogan, sees protests in Dublin, Paris or anywhere else but not in Belfast – and uses that as a reason to conveniently ignore us.”
The demonstration begins at Stormont at 1pm with protestors expected in Belfast throughout the morning.