Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has highlighted the need for Northern Ireland’s food processing sector to secure additional government support to expand the scope and quality of its existing facilities
By Richard Halleron
Northern Ireland was falling ‘badly behind’ the rest of the UK and the Republic of Ireland in the processing sector, according to UFU president Victor Chesnutt.
“In conjunction with the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association, we have asked Economy Minister Diane Dodds to address this matter as a matter of priority,” he said.
“In reply, she has said that she wants an independent assessment of the processing sector’s investment needs to be carried out.
“As far as the UFU is concerned, this work must be undertaken as a matter of priority. The theory is a very simple one: the more efficient our food processers become the greater is the potential for enhanced prices to be paid back down the line to the primary producer.”
In the dairy sector, Mr Chesnutt said an increase in scale would reduce or even end the need for milk to go south of the border for processing.
He also called for specific support measures to be made available to the wool industry.
“Ways must be found to add value to wool,” he said.
“It is an inherently natural product and can be put to so many uses.”
Mr Chestnutt added the co-operative driven marketing arrangements for wool, that have been such a feature of the sector in Northern Ireland over many years, could fall apart if government does not step in to support the industry now.