The View from Northern Ireland: Jim Allister, the leader of the Traditional Unionist Voice Party in Northern Ireland, and former MEP, has told AgriLand that the Irish dairy sector will, almost certainly, expand over the coming years.

“But this growth cannot be centred solely on milk powder production,” he added. “Such a strategy will, undoubtedly, lead to boom and bust cycles, as we have seen only too often in the recent past.

“Global demand for food products is set to rise significantly over the coming years. The world’s population will grow from the current figure of six billion people to nine billion by 2050. And all these extra mouths will need fed.

“The growth in the Chinese and other Asian economies will, undoubtedly, led to an increased demand for dairy and other livestock products. Moreover, the growth of the middle classes in countries such as China will ensure that people there will be a in a position to pay for the food being brought into the country.

“And, of course, all of this is good news for our farming and food sectors. And, yes, China will become a bigger player when it comes to sourcing dairy and other food products from this part of the world. I just have a concern, though, that where dairy is concerned, we must develop a strategy for the industry that allows it to follow a number of different marketing options. Simply trying to sell more milk powder into Asia is not the answer.”

He continued: “We need to see greater levels of innovation brought to bear within the food processing sector. The challenge ahead is that of developing new products and services that complement international consumer demand. The future must be centred on adding value to the dairy and other food products that we manufacture.

“Growth in agri food will help create new jobs and this is good news for the economy as a whole. But it goes without saying that farmers must receive sustainable prices for their produce. If this is not delivered, the envisaged growth in food processing will not take place.”

Turning to the issue of Common Agriculture Policy Reform, Allister stressed that those farmers producing the food must receive the lion’s share of Pillar 1 funding. He went on to point out to at production agriculture must also get its fair share of recognition when it comes to settling the programmes agreed for the next Rural Development Programme.