The evidence heard at Thursday’s emergency meeting of Stormont’s Agriculture Committee was a clear illustration of the scale of the crisis currently being faced by the dairy industry.
However, as my party colleague Jim Nicholson MEP has highlighted, currently a wide range of our local farming sectors are in serious financial difficulties at the moment; sheep, beef and potatoes farmers are all facing financial strains.
We must not lose sight of the fact that the Going for Growth Strategy is a joint DARD and DETI document, and that the marketing and promotion of our agri-food products falls to DETI.
There was a clear request made yesterday from both the farmers who presented and Dairy UK, that we should be seek ‘Preferred Nation Supplier Status’ with some of the international markets.
This status can sit outside any international trade agreement and is something that our Executive can and should be working to obtain.
It is through an agreement like this that some New Zealand milk companies have up to a 20 per cent price advantage entering the Chinese market.
We can no longer rely on, wait for, or tag on to the coat tails of the Republic’s Agriculture Minister when it comes to international trade agreements. We need to protect and promote our Northern Ireland farmers and our produce. The DARD Minister and especially the DETI Minister really need to improve their game.
Robin Swann, UUP MLA, North Antrim