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NI first UK nation to recognise importance of food security in post-Brexit policy

Northern Ireland has become the first UK nation to recognise the importance of food security in its post-Brexit policy development.


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NI first UK nation to recognise importance of food security in post-Brexit policy

Civil servants at the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) published a proposed policy framework last week in the absence of a functioning Government at Stormont.

 

The consultation document was released after England’s, Wales’ and Scotland’s, but is the only one to mention food security.

 

It reads: “Although it may not be a primary objective in terms of regional agricultural policy, food security is a highly important strategic context within which agricultural policy must operate.


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“Food security is a wide and complex issue, which is very much broader than the simple metric of self-sufficiency, and encompasses matters such as the protection of productive capacity, supply chain vulnerability, security of energy supply and other key inputs, security of transport links, trade and distribution networks, etc.

 

“All of these will be subject to natural, as well as, geopolitical risks and influences, but the strategic imperative of being able to secure basic food supplies lies at the centre of this integrate web of interconnected factors, and the role of agricultural policy in its broadest sense is of strategic importance and influence in this regard.”

The paper sets out a number of key desired outcomes for Northern Ireland’s agricultural industry, such as increased productivity, improved resilience, environmental sustainability and the creation of an efficient and responsive supply chain.

 

In order to meet these aims, it proposes maintaining the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) until 2021, while simplifying administration and removing most greening requirements.

 

Longer term, the plan is, where possible, to move to outcome-based agri-environment schemes which allow sub-regional variation to recognise differing circumstances in catchments, habitats or landscapes.

OTHER PROPOSALS

  • Drive productivity by increasing investment and collaboration in innovative research
  • Invest ‘significantly’ more in agricultural education, linking qualification attainment with scheme eligibility and making supply chain awareness an integral part of learning
  • Provide investment aid in the form of capital grants, loan funds and loan guarantees
  • Explore the possibility of introducing a deposit scheme which allows farmers to credit income to an account in profitable years, which can subsequently be drawn down in more challenging times
  • Help to rectify supply chain issues by considering how pricing and price reporting can best help farmers respond to market demands
  • Look at how Government interventions can foster greater co-operation in the agri-food supply chain
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