Strengthening North-South relations and having a stronger voice in Europe are crucial to the development and growth of the agri-food industry, SDLP South Down MP Margaret Ritchie has told farmers and industry representatives today.
Speaking in Omagh at the party’s annual agricultural conference – Securing Ireland’s Farming Future – Ms Ritchie said an all island approach is the only logical way forward for the industry.
Ms Ritchie, the only MP from Northern Ireland on the Westminster Select Committee for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “The industry across Ireland contributes an annual output approaching €24 billion and directly employs over 150,000 people. It is our largest indigenous employment sector. We must deliver an environment where producers can flourish and where consumers can have confidence.
“The NI Executive must work with similar ambition as the Irish government regarding support for agriculture and make more effort to work towards an all-island approach.
“When we have difficult issues, such as the recent nomad cattle matter, it is important that we work together to resolve them to ensure that these cattle aren’t wasted and that revenue is protected.”
Ms Ritchie spoke of industry challenges such as the recent scandals surrounding food contamination, issues including local Bovine TB and the ability for NI producers to export certain pork products to China.
“Locally Bovine TB from badgers is putting farmers under severe strain. I have frequently pointed to the potential effectiveness of a limited cull combined with enhanced herd tracking to tackle this problem.
“Local producers and companies need our support as we move into an era where local concerns meet global challenges head on. We have a responsibility and need to work together across the island of Ireland and in Europe to face these challenges. If we do, we can have an agri-food industry that is global in reach and aspiration, but never loses sight of the local environment and culture in which it is embedded,” addded Ms Ritchie.]]>