Agri-Food Strategy Board Call For Evidence. Developing A Strategic Plan For The Agri-Food Sector In Northern Ireland

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1 Agri-Food Strategy Board Call For Evidence Developing A Strategic Plan For The Agri-Food Sector In Northern Ireland Contact Name: Nigel Murphy (secretary) Sector Body (if appropriate): CAFRE College Advisory Group (CAG) Address: CAFRE, Greenmount Campus, 45 Tirgracy Road, Antrim, Co. Antrim, BT41 4PS Contact Contact Tel no:

2 1. What sub sector(s) are you providing information on? Suggested sub sectors are Arable, Fruit and Vegetables; Bakeries/Snacks; Beverages; Dairy; Feed and By Products; Fish and Aquaculture; Pig Meat; Poultry and Eggs; and Red Meat. Your views are also invited on any other sub sector not included in this list, or on the Agri-Food sector in general. CAFRE s College Advisory Group currently has representatives from the following sectors: beef and sheep production, dairy production, poultry production, crop production, horticulture production, equine, environment, education, finance and marketing. 2. What are the Strengths; Weaknesses; Opportunities; Threats in the sub sector(s)? Strengths The Northern Irish countryside combined with a cleaning and green image remains one of the strongest unique selling points for Northern Irish produce. An enthusiastic and competent workforce. Weaknesses Lack of coherent strategy for marketing Northern Irish produce. For the most part, farmers lose control of the marketing chain after their produce leave their farm. As a result, market signals back to primary producers can be weak. Poor health and safety record in farming. Small diverse sectors, such as horticulture, find it difficult to make a coherent case to government and, as a result, get relatively limited support.

3 Opportunities The introduction of GM varieties to better tailor production to meet the needs of the consumer and local production conditions. As NI is a grain deficit area, there are opportunities to increase the production of cereals. There are opportunities for increase co-operation with the Republic of Ireland in cereal production. Threats Conflict between energy and food crops. Inadequate retirement planning and poor tax incentives are preventing the early involvement of new entrants in the industry. Emerging tax case law is reducing land availability through the conacre system.

4 3. What are the key cross cutting issues facing the sub sector(s) in relation to: i. Marketing (e.g. trade barriers, accessing new markets) As Northern Ireland is remote to the major market-places in GB and the rest of Europe, the cost of transportation is a major barrier. ii. Finance (e.g. access to funding, input costs, tax structures) The current focus on corporation tax although benefiting some the large food processors, will have relatively limited impact on primary producers. Current tax structures do little to encourage transfer of assets to younger farmers or encourage investment in farm holdings. The tax treatment of conacre is also starting to impact on the availability and cost of land for production. iii. Innovation (e.g. improved collaboration, added value) There is a need to ensure there are even better linkages between knowledge and technology transfer provision and developing new products which meet emerging market requirements. iv. Capability (e.g. development of skills, availability of labour, management There is a need to better support farming families through the transition of introducing the next generation into the business.

5 training) v. Environmental (e.g. infrastructure to recycle and process waste, natural gas) Capability also needs to be developed to equipping people in agri-food businesses with the skills to become more export orientated. There is an emerging conflict as to whether land in Northern Ireland should be used for energy or to produce food. The impact on the economy needs to be carefully examined to ensure government intervention stimulate the areas which will result in the best long-term economic and environmental payback. vi. Planning It appears that there is a lack of consistency as to how agriculture related development is treated across NI. vii. Regulatory obstacles or issues Livestock trade between NI and RoI encounters regulatory obstacles due to complex regulations. viii. Scale within Northern Ireland or is an all Island approach or wider option required. The cereal sector in particular would benefit from an all-island approach

6 ix. Policy issues or barriers See comments made in vii. x. Potential impact of Common Agricultural Policy reform The CAP needs further reform to ensure the industry develops in line with market forces and therefore secures a strong competitive position. xi. Supply chain There is a need for greater transparency in the supply chain, there continues to be a view that cost pressures are disproportionately place on primary producers and others at towards the bottom of the supply chain. There is relatively limited support available for artisan producers. xii. Food safety/security The case for GM foods needs to be carefully explored within the context of food safety and security.

7 4. What opportunities for growth do you see in the sub sector and how would you recommend these are developed? Opportunity 1 Further resources should be made available to market food from Northern Ireland building healthy lifestyle messages into our reputation of a clean green environment. Opportunity 2 We recommend that support arrangements are developed to help the development and marketing of artisan foods from Northern Ireland. Opportunity 3 We also recommend that support structures be established to help fund the development of the horticulture sector in Northern Ireland which, to date, has not benefit from significant government investment. Opportunity 4 We recommend that the innovation voucher system is further developed to help the industry specify their requirements for knowledge and technology transfer delivered by the universities and other supplying institutions.

8 5. What is holding back and prohibiting the growth and development of the sub sector? Suggestion 1 As Northern Ireland is remote from many of its markets and the additional cost of transportation can be a major barrier to trade. It is our view that some type of subsidisation of haulage would act as a major stimulus to growth. Suggestion 2 The current tax system does little to encourage the exit of retiring farmers and entry of younger farmers. In addition the tax treatment of conacre land in some places is limiting the availability of land for production. It is our view that a tax system for farming should be reviewed to encourages: Retirement; New entrants to become active in farming; Invest in farm holdings; and The active use the available land resource.

9 Suggestion 3 Suggestion 4 It is our view that there is insufficient succession planning on many farms. We would recommend the development of a competency development programmes designed to help farm businesses to plan for the succession of young people into the farm business. It is our view that many food producing companies lack competency in developing export marking opportunities. We recommend the development of competency development programmes to help companies make the most of these opportunities. Suggestion 5 It is our view that there needs to be one planning unit established to handle all agriculture-related development in Northern Ireland. Thank you for completing the questionnaire. The consultation period will close on 14 September Responses to this consultation should reach the Agri-Food Strategy Board on or before that date, and should be forwarded to Or by post to: AFSB Support Branch Room 654, Dundonald House Upper Newtownards Road Belfast BT4 3SB

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