Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC) chief executive, Ian Stevenson, firmly believes that the current scale of Northern Ireland’s primary beef and lamb production levels can be maintained and, possibly, expanded.

But making this happen will require the livestock industry reaching out to a wide range of decision makers and influencers.

Stevenson said: “In the first instance, the red meat sector must develop the closest possible ties with our local politicians. And the same principle holds, where Westminster is concerned.

“In a post-Brexit world, London will be a critically important centre of decision-making where beef and sheep in Northern Ireland are concerned.

“We are already seeing this in the context of the recent trade negotiations involving the UK with both Australia and New Zealand,” he added.

The LMC representative said that political decision makers must be made fully aware of the critically important role that farming and foods plays within the local economy and its contribution our overall way of life.

Alliances within beef and lamb sectors

According to Stevenson, Northern Ireland’s livestock sectors must work domestically and internationally to develop the alliances that will be required to get core policy messages agreed at the highest possible level.

He explained: “In the case of LMC this is already happening. The commission plays an important role within a number of important international bodies, including the Global Meat Alliance.”

The commission representative also pointed out that many of the challenges now confronting beef and sheep production have a very strong international dimension.

These include climate change and the evolving debate, where veganism is concerned.

He commented: “The Global Meat Alliance, of which LMC is a member, brings together the various meat industry organisations from around the world to share their global insights and to agree collaborative projects that have common purpose across the entire gamut of livestock-related interests.

“However, the reality remains that cattle and sheep producers in Northern Ireland are about to enter a period of unprecedented change.”

Stevenson also pointed out, change can be a very positive dynamic.

“Every business must plan for the future. Given this reality, it behoves every cattle and sheep farmer in Northern Ireland to secure the best advice available, whether this comes from CAFRE [College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise] or paid consultancy.

“But more than this, farmers must be prepared to make full use of the advice that they do receive,” he concluded.