Approximately 200 delegates have turned out in Belfast today for the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) dairy conference. Innovation within the milk sector is the overarching theme for the event.

“There is a sustainable future for milk production on this island,” AFBI CEO Professor Seamus Kennedy told AgriLand. “But this will only be secured on the back of improved efficiency levels being achieved on farm.”

He continued: “Yes milk output will continue to increase. In fact, milk production has already increased in Northern Ireland by in excess of 50 per cent since quotas were introduced in 1984.

“This trend will be maintained. However, factors such as farm size and adhering to stricter environmental regulations will have an impact on the future development of the dairy sector.”

Professor Kennedy then highlighted the targets for Northern Ireland’s dairy sector that have been built into the Going for Growth strategy, published by the AFBI almost a year ago. These include growing the sector’s turnover by 65 per cent, to reach £1.45bn sterling by 2020.

“All of the Going for Growth targets are achievable,” Kennedy further explained.

“It is AFBI’s role to ensure that the research required to allow farmers meet their growth targets is carried out. This is an ongoing process. And today’s conference has been organised to showcase what we are doing and our plans for the future.

“But this is not a one-way process. We need to communicate more effectively with producers in order to find out their needs and then to respond accordingly.”

AFBI vice-chairman Professor Bill McKelvey was the initial speaker at the conference. Courtesy of his presentation he made it clear that the growth of the dairy sector in Northern Ireland must be achieved on a sustainable basis.

“I look forward to the Executive at Stormont responding positively to the Going for Growth strategy in the very near future.”

AgriLand is reporting live from the conference, reports to follow