Farmers across the province spend close to half a billion pounds annually in Northern Ireland according to new figures released by the Ulster Farmers’Union.
The spend of £486 million boost to the economy clearly demonstrated the “vital role” of farm businesses in supporting the economy as a whole.
“This is the first time the total contribution of agriculture overall to the UK and regional economies and society has been calculated,” said Mr Bell.
“Clearly, the contribution of farmers to the economy should not be over looked and this report backs our calls that agriculture needs to be a priority as preparations get underway for leaving the EU,” said Mr Bell.
Calculations for the UK as a whole produced by National Farmers’ Union show that the monetary value of primary food production, environmental services and tourism in 2015 was estimated to be £46,496bn indicating that for every £1 invested in farm support in the UK, the sector delivers £7.40 back to the economy.
The report also recognised that agriculture makes a significantly above-average contribution to the economy in Northern Ireland.
“These figures prove that money invested in farming by the government delivers significant return for the Northern Ireland economy and the wider UK economy,” added Mr Bell.
“As it will be up to the governments in Westminster and the devolved regions to ensure that formal brexit negotiations deliver the best possible trade deals, continued access to labour, and a farm support system that takes into account the unique situations of the four UK regions and it is essential that Northern Ireland’s voice is clearly heard as these discussions take place.”