Armstrong questions DARD Minister on behalf of pork sector

ULSTER Unionist MLA for Mid-Ulster questioned the Agriculture Minister on Monday on behalf of the Northern Ireland pig industry, who are facing a hike in cereal prices, about any plans she might have to ensure that regulations do no place local pig farmers at a disadvantage with other producers of pork products who may be importing to the UK.

He said: “However, the answer that I received was far from helpful and the Northern Ireland pork industry will be disappointed to hear that while the Agriculture Minister (Michelle Gildernew) seems to agree with me that the regulations need to be consistent across the EU regarding pork import she seems to have no intention of doing anything significant or new to bring this concept to any conclusion.

“She talks of the Department providing help with benchmarking, however this is something that farmers have been doing for years and years – farmers have been concentrating on efficiency in order to survive.

“Looking back 15 years to the last major pig industry crisis only those who were able to create stringent efficiencies survived at all and this mindset has continued since then.

“The Northern Ireland Agri-food industry needs to share any profitability that it may have fairly between the supermarket, processor and producer. In the current economic climate Supermarkets are supplying two for one deals, and such like, to the consumer.

“Instead of taking any loss themselves the Supermarkets put pressure on Processors’ profits. These reduce the Processors profitability and in turn, they pass this reduction in profit on to the Producers.

“The Northern Ireland agri-food industry has great potential to help restore the Northern Ireland economy and I would suggest that the Agriculture Minister should make a greater effort to promote the Agriculture industry in Northern Ireland to make it more profitable.”