The View from Northern Ireland: An early package of measures by the Department of Agricultural and Rural Development (DARDin response to ‘Going for Growth’ the report of the Agri-Food Strategy Board (AFSB) has been published.

Speaking at the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association’s Appetite for Growth Conference,  Minister Michelle O’Neill said that a number of the reports key recommendations are achievable, with some already having been delivered. 

“The AFSB highlighted the importance of building relationships with new markets. Following my visit to Beijing and Shanghai last year, I have recently returned from a very positive trip to China where I addressed the Sino-European Agricultural Conference, highlighting our industry’s reputation for safe, traceable and wholesome food. In addition, I made representations on behalf of the local pork industry to progress our applications for the export of local pigmeat.

“I also recently announced that I intend to establish a government/industry strategic partnership to develop a long-term strategy to eradicate TB from the cattle population here, another key recommendation from the AFSB.”

She continued: “In addition to the consultation on the proposed 2014-2020 Rural Development Programme my Department has recently launched a consultation on options for implementing the Pillar 1 Direct Payments element of the CAP reform proposals. This is a major reform package with wide-ranging implications, and I very much want to hear the views of stakeholders before reaching a conclusion on the implementation of the new reforms. In order to assist the process I propose to hold a conference in early November to give stakeholders an opportunity to seek clarification on the more detailed issues and to discuss the reforms in full.”

The minister said the recent establishment of an Agri-Food Loan Scheme was a positive step for the industry, and added: “Growth in the local agri-food industry must start with the primary producer. The loan scheme will help farmers involved in integrated supply chains access the finance they need to expand production, and will help provide a short term solution to a key challenge identified by the Agri-Food Strategy Board.”

Outlining the next steps, the minister concluded: “Going for Growth was developed in response to an Executive commitment within the Programme for Government. Within the coming weeks proposals will be brought forward for Executive endorsement, outlining how DARD and Government as a whole will respond to the report.”

Going for Growth, the Strategic Action Plan of the Agri-Food Strategy Board is available on the DARD website here.