Archives For Agriculture
North Antrim MP Ian Paisley spoke in a dairy industry debate in Westminster this week and encouraged the government to increase their efforts to support our local producers.
Speaking on Wednesday Mr Paisley raised the issues of how Northern Ireland dairy farmers face even more difficulties than the rest of the UK in what is already a struggling market.
“We are pressed with cheap imports from our neighbours in the Republic of Ireland, who very aggressively sell their milk in Northern Ireland but then very aggressively oppose the sale of our milk in the republic. That’s something that needs to be looked at very strongly by the government. “
The Northern Ireland dairy farming industry is made of almost 3500 farms, with some 2000 people farming nearly 300,000 cows.
“In my constituency we have one of the largest bottling plants in the UK as well United Dairies, one of the most successful farming co-operatives. Dairy farming is a back bone of North Antrim in terms of jobs and the local economy and it is very important that it is supported.”
The price of milk had fallen to 27p per litre, less than the cost of production and is simply unsustainable. There is a significant lack of transparency between the retailer, the processor and the farmer and how prices are set appears to be a real grey area from the farmers perspective. I believe that this will continue to remain the case until more stringent measures are put in place to monitor how these prices are set. Is undoubtedly a significant hidden profit there which the farmer is entitled to a share of, but with regulations as they are, he is prevented from doing so yet the processor continues to prosper.
I am asking this government to be more stringent on how prices are set and I am asking them to place restrictions on our supermarkets, who so often use meat and dairy products as their ‘frontline’ when engaged in a price war with any given rival.
The Northern Ireland dairy industry currently exports 85% of its produce and are particularly worse off in terms of the price they can get for their produce than the rest of the UK. Indeed this very month our farmers are predicted to earn 5p per litre less than their mainland colleagues and these sorts of margins really can be the difference between whether our farmers keep their heads above water or not.
I believe it very important that the government consider the proposal of a tax break for Northern Ireland farmers in order to counteract this shortfall in profits, certainly until a longer term solution can be devised and implemented.
I do however believe that it is the responsibility of the entire industry, starting with the government and filtering down through all UK consumers, in particular our supermarket heavyweights, to educate the consumer. It is a fact that the consumer has got to be educated that if they want to eat clean, green, traceable, local produce they are going to be paying more for it. It is a fact, and we’ve got to have all sectors of the industry supporting that fact. Educating the consumer that if they want to fill their basket with local produce, it is going to cost more. We need to get away from this perception that we can have cheap mass quantities of foodstuffs, it will be food ‘like’ stuffs, but it is not the same, and we’ve got to be very clear about that. That is a difficult matter to sell to the public, particularly in times of austerity but I think it is something that we do need to address.
There must be pressure put on people to buy red tractor-marked, local goods. This can only be achieved with government support. They must aggressively encourage the sale of those goods and they can take that right to the line. Many European countries break the rules without a second thought when it comes to selling their local products. I want to see our government bending that line and being as pro-active as they possibly can to ensure that as many British products are being sold to British people as possible.
Today Ian Paisley MP accompanied by Mervyn Story MLA met with the new CEO of Moy Park Janet McCollum at the Portadown HQ.
The MP said, “Poultry production is incredibly important to the Northern Ireland agriculture base and North Antrim farmers make a magnificent contribution to the industry. One of Moy Parks four UK bases is in Ballymena and it is important for me as the Member of Parliament and Agriculture spokesman in Westminster to ensure that this key plant continues to play a leading role in the industry.
“Indeed over the next few weeks as we move towards the Christmas fresh turkey production, Ballymena will play a key part in UK production delivering the best fresh turkey to consumers.
I want to see this industry flourish. I want to ensure that local farms that need to expand production houses are facilitated with quick and progressive planning approvals and that opportunities to increase business come to all of North Antrim. It is essential that environmental waste issues and the cost of energy is further addressed and solutions found. Much of that falls to others but the impact on the industry is extensive.
” I will be working with the industry to ensure its continued success as a flagship producer in Northern Ireland”
Mr Ian Paisley, MP for North Antrim, visited the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) Hillsborough in late December 2013. The purpose of his visit was to avail of AFBI expertise regarding the growth potential for biomass energy generation in Northern Ireland. His key objective was to determine the opportunities for local business and employment in this expanding agri-environment sector.
Key topics covered during the visit included: agricultural sustainability; climate change; land sourced renewable; and the extent to which the agricultural production of biomass crops had been adopted. With a backdrop of increasing uptake of biomass technology, partially stimulated by Renewable Obligation Certificates and Renewable Heat Initiatives, Mr Paisley’s main concern was where all this biomass would ultimately come from, given the relatively low level of forestation in the province (and indeed across the island). The advice from the AFBI scientists was that a significant quantity of our future biomass requirements for energy generation was expected to come from importation. This was consistent with recent media claims that imports will form a major part of our future biomass requirements in order to “keep the lights on”.
Mr Paisley was also very supportive of the concept that local agricultural biomass production would have an important and continuing role for the sustainable supply of biomass for the small to medium scale heat generation. In such systems the quality of the wood chip is very important and AFBI’s research and support for this sector has helped develop short rotation coppice (SRC) willow biomass production and supply chains to increasingly become a more vital part of our energy supply services.
Mr Paisley was equally eager to promote any opportunities for local businesses to take the lead in the expected need for biomass production outside of Northern Ireland and to capture the profits and benefits of any future importation trade for the local economy. Chris Johnston presented an AFBI vision of a developing bioenergy sector in Northern Ireland with opportunities for the ethical and sustainable production of SRC biomass crops in other countries. In his opinion, such enterprises could benefit both the country of production and Northern Ireland by providing increased fuel security locally and employment opportunities in both countries.
Mr Paisley concluded the meeting by stating that AFBI expertise would be pivotal in assisting local entrepreneurs to achieve these objectives. As part of his continuing support for local business interests in this area, he was eager to promote ever closer links between the Renewable Energy Centre at AFBI Hillsborough and the private sector.
North Antrim MP Ian Paisley this week debated the issue of the ongoing badger culling, arguing that the spread of TB to cattle through infected badgers was “a serious risk to rural livelihoods.”
In arguing against the notion that there is a vaccine available for cattle Mr Paisley stressed the point that there is no way of distinguishing whether a cow’s test, should it come back positive, is because it has picked up the disease or due to it having had its BCG vaccination. “Every cow that tests positive has to be slaughtered despite there being no evidence as to whether the animal has TB or not.”
The MP also highlighted the financial implications of vaccinations during the Westminster debate. ‘To capture, test and inject the beast costs over £3000 over a five year period. The best opportunity to find infection-free badgers is when they are young, but as they stay in their sett as cubs, it is all but impossible to vaccinate them during this period meaning by the time they emerge they have often already been infected by their parents.’
Mr Paisley concluded his argument by stressing the point that in a ‘perfect world’ vaccinations would be the answer, but as this is sadly not the case, we have to ‘face the reality’ that while vaccinations are an important tool, they are not the answer and ‘culling has to continue to a certain degree to protect the agricultural industry and the thousands of people in North Antrim whose way of life depends on it.’
Ian Paisley MP warns that Government must address the needs of farming community before it is too late.
This is a diabolical situation that is starting to affect our economy and will see the price of food increase.”