Quality Assurance, Safety  And Customer Requirements Were the Subjects at New Trade Awareness Course

A new course aimed at promoting a better understanding of the province's agrifood sector has been fully subscribed for its first event. Developed by the Northern Ireland Grain Trade Association the “Trade Awareness” course is designed particularly for new entrants to the animal feed trade and focuses on the role of businesses which supply feeds to local farmers. 

Attending the Trade Awareness course were Pamela McCloskey, Barnett & Hall; David Wylie, Barnett & Hall; Derek Newport, R & H Hall and Robin Irvine, CEO NIGTA.
Attending the Trade Awareness course were Pamela McCloskey, Barnett & Hall; David Wylie, Barnett & Hall; Derek Newport, R & H Hall and Robin Irvine, CEO NIGTA.

The program of visits and presentations was centred on the Belfast Harbour area and featured an overview of the agri food sector – its focus on export markets and the importance of assurance systems to deliver a high level of safety and quality right along the food chain.

Joe O’ Neil, commercial manager of the Belfast Harbour outlined the vital role of imports with over two million tonnes of feed materials landed at the port every year. The challenge of sourcing materials in the global commodity markets in the face of volatility caused by weather, currency movements, wars and political instability was discussed in detail

This was followed by a tour of the harbour stores and a visit to the MV Triton – a massive ocean going vessel just arrived from San Lorenzo in South America and laden with 45,000 tonnes of Soya Meal and Soya Hulls for local feed producers.

The attendees at NIGTA's first Trade Awareness Course pictured at the Harbour Commissioners Office.
The attendees at NIGTA's first Trade Awareness Course pictured at the Harbour Commissioners Office.

Compound feeds came under the spotlight at the United Feeds mill in the Harbour Estate with a tour of the production facility and presentations on quality systems and the world leading Food Fortress program developed in partnership with the Institute of Global Food Security at Queens University. Delegates traced the growth of the agrifood sector and the expansion of feed production as farms became larger and more intensive. As food production has become the mainstay of the local economy feed businesses have invested heavily in plant and equipment to increase capacity but also in staff training and in quality systems.

 Research and development was another area where significant investments were being made to improve feed efficiency and reduce costs of production. This was highlighted in a partnership program with Devenish and Moy Park aimed at improving the performance and environmental impact of broiler chickens through precision nutrition. 

Participants on the course were enthusiastic about its value in broadening their knowledge of the feed and food chain and it is anticipated that the event will be repeated later this summer.

The long running saga of the EU Commission’s struggle to deal effectively with approvals for the use of feed materials from new genetically modified crops has taken a new and potentially disastrous turn for European food and feed producers.

 For many years new genetically modified crops and their derivatives from the world’s main food producing countries seeking entry into the European market have undergone a rigorous risk assessment by the European Food Standards Agency. They would then come before a standing committee for approval by the politicians. This approval was continually blocked however by a number of member states strongly opposed to genetic modification.  A prolonged process of committee sittings led to a default position whereby the commission would bypass the politicians and issue a market authorisation based on the scientific evidence and EFSA approval. 

The latest proposals to resolve the approvals logjam would give national governments the power to decide whether to issue the market authorisations and would allow individual Member States to take a non-GM stance with regard to the use of feed and food materials.

Far from providing a solution to the problem, the major EU feed and food organisations believe that it is a betrayal of the principle of the single market and predict that it will lead to chaos.  They are mounting a concerted campaign to resist these proposals as they could significantly impact the Internal Market for food and feed products, potentially causing disruption to trade, transport, processing and production with lower investment and higher costs in “opt-out” countries.

With the EU dependent on importing over 70% of its animal feed – in particular protein-rich materials which cannot be produced in Europe for climatic and agronomic reasons it is viewed by feed producers as not just an attack on free trade but on the intensive farming sector in particular.

Consequently, the EU food and feed chain partners are urging the European Parliament and Council to reject the Commission’s proposal. They argue that it should be the main priority of the commission to ensure that the current legislation is properly implemented instead of trying to change the present market authorisation procedure for political considerations.

The European Commission adopted the legislative proposal on April 22nd and it will now be transferred to European Parliament and Council for discussion and adoption. The Northern Ireland Grain Trade Association is actively supporting the European Food and Feed Associations by lobbying relevant government departments and local MEPs.

Feed Prices Ease

The continued weakness in the global grain markets is expected to be reflected in local feed prices in the coming weeks. Protein prices remain firm however and while soya prices faltered a little with the expectation of good crops in South America the mid protein materials such as rapeseed and the corn by products are still relatively expensive.

 

 

The working farm is recognised as a high risk environment and considerable effort has been made in recent months to reduce the catalogue of incidents and fatalities which plague the agricultural sector. Farm safety is a major priority for the industry and is the subject of various campaigns to encourage farmers to think safe and reduce the risks as far as possible.

Good access to the farmyard that is clean and non-slip is vital for feed deliveries.
Good access to the farmyard that is clean and non-slip is vital for feed deliveries.

Visitors to farms also need to be considered and those whose job it is to make deliveries or collections from farms are also at risk. It is important that the farm safety plan takes account of the risks they may be exposed to as they carry out their work. 

The feed delivery is an essential and regular feature of most livestock farms and the responsibility for a safe and efficient delivery should be shared between farmer and supplier. 

Ideally deliveries should be planned for in advance, considering all the risks, and with precautions put in place to secure the safety of all involved either directly (e.g. driver, farm worker,) or indirectly (e.g. children, public) with the delivery whilst it is taking place. If there are particular hazards associated with a delivery it is important that farm staff are on hand to assist and ensure a safe discharge.

Articulated tipping lorries are very unstable on slopes - when fully loaded they can only sustain a slope of 2.5 degrees.
Articulated tipping lorries are very unstable on slopes - when fully loaded they can only sustain a slope of 2.5 degrees..

The driver’s job is very much easier if the farm is adequately signed from the road with good access and roadways leading to a yard which is big enough for the delivery vehicle to safely turn and manoeuvre into position. The delivery area needs to be clean, non slip and  well away from any livestock. A firm, level surface is essential for safe forklift operation and it must be remembered that tipping Lorries are very unstable on slopes. A fully loaded articulated vehicle when tipped to its maximum can only sustain a slope of 2.5 degrees before it starts to overturn with inevitable damage to the vehicle and potentially to buildings and personnel. 

Where Lorries are to be tipped within a feed store the access and headroom needs to permit the delivery to be effected with minimum risk to property or personnel. It is vital that the tipping area is sited well away from overhead power lines so there is no risk of contact with live cables or flashover which could result in death or injury.

Feed Silos must be in a good state of repair, free from damage and excessive corrosion, and must be securely fixed to the ground to prevent collapse or overturn. They should be clearly marked to ensure that the product is correctly delivered and should be checked to ensure that there is sufficient storage capacity to receive all the feed ordered. Bins should have a fixed delivery/filler pipe to which the driver can connect and make a safe delivery. The connection point should be set between waist and head height and must be easily accessible. 

Where feed is stored on a loft they should be designed so that the driver is not required to enter this area. If it is necessary for him to check the loft before discharge it is essential that it can be accesssed easily by a firmly secured and well constructed ladder, floors must be sound and free from debris and vermin, and the area should have adequate lighting. 

Delivery drivers should attend their vehicle during discharge and ensure that no one comes close to the rear of the vehicle when tipping - All pedestrians, including drivers and farm staff must stand clear of the rear of the trailer when tipping. A sudden movement of material can cause trailer doors to fail and spring open without warning. This can lead to serious injury and death through suffocation or being struck by the tailgate.

Each farmyard will have its own particular hazards and time taken to identify the risks involved in the operation will be very well repaid in providing a safer environment for all involved in the farm business.

 “While the price of feed materials is being driven up by strong global demand the  sterling/dollar exchange is in our favour and is helping protect local livestock producers from the full impact of the rising market” says Robin Irvine of the Northern Ireland Grain Trade Association.

The value of the pound is at a 4 to 5 year high having increased by over 10% against the US currency in the last 12 months. This has sheltered sterling buyers from the worst effects of the rise in the price of soya and other dollar traded commodities but some increase in feed costs for the summer months seems inevitable. 

Current concerns for the feed trade are led by the tight supply of Soya beans in North America as we wait for a new crop harvest in October. With global demand pushing ever higher the US crop would be technically oversold with 104% of the 2013 crop already traded. This situation has pushed the spot meal prices in Chicago to over $500/ton in the last week - up by $100/ton since November.

Even the negative impact of China, which imports 60% of the soya traded on the world market, cancelling some shipments and defaulting on contracts has not been enough to take the heat out of the market. Neither has the benefit of a good crop safely harvested in South America had any significant effect on prices. While the Brazilian harvest is virtually completed and their material is readily available the Argentineans are still in the middle of harvest and are more reluctant sellers. The deepening economic turmoil in this country and a punitive tax on exports is encouraging farmers to hold on to their soybeans. A crop in store is seen as a much better hedge against inflation than cash in a rapidly depreciating currency. 

In the US funds are holding on to their long positions on soya and it will probably take until late summer with a more comfortable view on stocks and prospects of a good harvest before there is any chance of any significant ease in prices.

 Rapemeal has tended to track soya prices and with this material also in tight supply prices have been firm but with hopes of significantly lower levels from the new harvest in August.

The market for cereals is also showing a firmer tone as we move into the summer season. The benefit of the record corn crop and good supplies of Ukrainian maize at a very attractive price was used to offset a strong wheat market and helped contain feed costs over the winter months.   With the political uncertainty in Ukraine this is now seen as a high risk origin and local traders have looked to Canada for maize. A late thaw in the Great Lakes following the intensely cold Canadian winter has delayed shipments but with good availability of grain with an EU approved GM status this will be a popular origin in the coming months. While more expensive than the winter contracts it still represents good value against wheat and we can expect to see an emphasis on maize in both intensive and ruminant diets over the summer months. 

Looking  further ahead there are positive signs in terms of a much better UK wheat crop but with the volatility in feed material markets continuing to confound the pundits  the best predictions of the experts are often overtaken by developing events in a very short time.

Hopes of a period of stable market conditions for feed materials seem as elusive as ever as politics and weather in the key production areas conspire to create a period of uncertainty.

Supply concerns around grains from Ukraine, Soya from Argentina and the effect on logistics of low temperatures in Canada and rain in Brazil is making accurate forecasting impossible and keeping a firmness in the market for most commodities.

The crisis in Russia and the Ukraine have sent grain markets into a spin and with the Russian stock market dropping like a stone there is a rush of money into commodities such as oil & wheat. With a bumper crop of maize in store this region has been the principle source of supply for Irish shippers but new trades are drying up as the Ukrainian currency is falling like a stone. Sellers are disappearing from the market and will hold onto their stocks in the hope of a more stable economy in the future. 

 It is to be hoped that the political situation does not degrade towards war / blockades, which would bring ‘force majeure’ into play on international shipping contracts in and out of the Black Sea and possibly the Baltic.

The critical long term concern is that the Ukrainian and Russian planting seasons can progress as normal. Economic uncertainty and lack of working capital to finance planting of the new crop could be an issue if economic sanctions materialise. If that were to happen there would be a serious supply issue to contend with and markets would have more than a temporary reason to go up. A risk premium has been applied to the market, and no-one is prepared to put a timescale on when/if it might be reversed.

Proteins markets too are far from settled. The soya market is highly volatile with U.S. soybean futures surging upward last week after big export sales triggered investment fund buying. The sales were at the high end of analyst expectations and came amid rain delays to the harvest and congestion at ports in Brazil, a country that typically starts to dominate global soy export trade at this time of year.      The lack of investment in infrastructure in South America continues to hamper the movement of crop to the ports. 

In Argentina it is reported that crushing plants are running at one third of their capacity as farmers are reluctant to cash their crops for a very weak and devaluing currency.  With inflation running at 30% per annum a crop in store is seen as a better investment than cash in the bank. The high hopes that the elections in October would bring about changes in policy which would free agricultural trade and address Argentina’s serious economic issues are unfulfilled. As a result, contrary to market expectation, the Argentine farmer appears happy to withhold his 6 million tonnes or more of beans, and carry into new crop, exacerbating the impact of delays to new crop supply from Brazil and the demand on US supply.

Protein prices are also affected by the severe cold and snow in the interior of Canada preventing the movement of grains. The canola (rapeseed) crop is of particular concern to this part of the world as European crushers will source significant quantities from this region. Ships are queuing at ports as railcars remain jammed under snow. Similarly logistics issues for Canadian maize will do little to stem the upward pressure on global feed grain prices.

Overall, the indications are that feed ingredient prices look to remain firm for some months with the best hope of relief coming when the Northern Hemisphere harvests begin.

The European Commission’s proposal for new regulations on medicated feed will have significant implications for farmers, vets and feed businesses. 

While incorporation in feed is accepted as one of the most effective ways of administering veterinary medicines to animals, the commission has concerns that its improper use could in some way contribute to antibiotic resistance in the human population. Their aim is to reduce the use of antimicrobials in livestock production and to enforce a highly disciplined approach to the use of medicines in feed. 

The European Commission’s proposal for new regulations on medicated feed will have significant implications for farmers, vets and feed businesses.
The European Commission’s proposal for new regulations on medicated feed will have significant implications for farmers, vets and feed businesses.

The veterinarian is the key player in the new proposals. Medicated feed can only be produced and supplied after an examination, diagnosis and treatment prescription by the veterinarian responsible for the animals. A point of particular concern to the livestock industry is that the use of antibiotics to routinely prevent disease will not be permitted and it is only when clinical disease has been diagnosed that medicines can be administered via feed. This has potential to increase the sub-clinical disease challenge and subsequently have a negative impact on animal health and performance.  

While the practice of medicating feed is most commonly associated with pig production there is widespread use of prescription coccidiostats in the ruminant sector particularly in sheep and in young cattle. The requirement for a veterinarian to visit and make a diagnosis before animals can be treated will add significant cost and potentially loss of thrive if it causes a delay in the treatment of affected animals.

Feed producers are concerned at the proposals, specifically relating to the production of feeds and the tight restrictions placed on scheduling of production etc. For many businesses the cost of meeting these requirements along with the cost of additional laboratory analysis and the risk of penalties for non compliance may mean that fewer businesses will be prepared to add medications to feed and could lead to less choice for farmers.

As proposals have not yet been finalized, feed producers across Europe are working hard to influence the outcome in the hope of a solution which will allow mills to continue to provide this valuable service to livestock farmers. However the commission will no doubt be influenced by countries such as Germany, Denmark and Belgium which have already removed or significantly reduced in-feed medications.

The European feed grain market is going to be a crowded place this season according to industry observers with both EU wheat and maize production revised higher by the International Grains Council last week. Big crops are putting pressure on prices and are being reflected in lower feed costs to the livestock sectors. Significant reductions have been delivered by feed suppliers over recent months but there is inevitably a time lag in reflecting these price changes due to the long term nature of feed material contracts.

With the NI livestock industry consuming around 50,000t of compound feeds every week – virtually all of which has to be brought in through the ports – the industry is totally dependent on a global supply base and on well planned and coordinated shipping programs to ensure the continuity of supply.

The industry cannot be sustained on a hand to mouth basis - but rather on supply contracts for purchase of material and shipping which have to be set up months in advance.

These long term arrangements are essential for the industry to ensure a regular and reliable supply to the NI farmer.

They also serve a very valuable role in protecting him from the worst effects of price volatility in the global market and will save £millions every year for the industry. 

The weakness of global grain markets is being reflected in reducing feed prices and the full benefit of these reductions will continue to work through as current contracts unravel and new lower priced purchases work through the system.

On the protein side there is no doubt at this stage of the season that the US is going to harvest a record crop of soya. Near perfect growing conditions have led analysts to increase production estimates time and time again. This will certainly put pressure on prices and the effect is already obvious in the forward positions.  Nearby prices remain stubbornly firm as harvest has not properly commenced yet and the US old crop stocks for this year have been the tightest in recent memory at 3.7% stocks/usage ratio.

It will take the safe arrival of the new crop to bring significant reductions and this involves a complex logistical process which takes several weeks to work through. The harvest will get into full swing around mid-October with the soybeans then delivered to the crushers for oil extraction. The meal is transferred by barge down to export terminals in the Gulf of Mexico where it will be loaded for shipment to meet the ever increasing global demand for soya. Pressure on the rail and river freight capacity is already building and prices are being pushed up due to the sheer volume of material to be transported. 

The short term supply concerns are not helped by the ever worsening situation in Argentina which is the third biggest producer of soybeans in the world.  Farmers here have simply refused to sell approximately half of their soybeans.  This has been caused by the Argentinean government mishandling the economy, causing an artificial exchange rate which is very unfavourable to sellers of soybeans. With an inflation rate of over 30% farmers are very reluctant to sell their crops in such a weak currency – preferring to hold on in the hope of forcing prices higher. 

The opportunities for development of our industry are coming into focus in recent weeks. “Going for Growth” is an ambitious strategy which will challenge all sectors of the agrifood chain. It recognises the growing global demand for food and the natural advantages of Northern Ireland in terms of climate, skills and the structures to produce it efficiently.

That vision is moving closer to practical reality with the work of the Greenhouse Gas Implementation Plan adding the essential elements to ensure that this growth can be delivered without negative impact on the environment. The emphasis on efficiency and in particular the effective use of all inputs will shape farming practice and will allow the industry not only to grow but to “grow green”.

Sustainability is the key - and the buzz words will be feed efficiency, nutrient balance and carbon sequestration as farmers look to eliminate waste and improve performance in the key areas of their business.

Every element of the food chain will be challenged and will have its part to play. As importers and distributers of inputs the supply trade are stepping up to the mark to help farmers recover the maximum return for their investment in feeds and fertiliser.

The register of feed advisers now includes well over 100 fieldstaff who are committed to a program of training and continuous professional development to better support Northern Ireland farmers. They will help deliver the key messages and focus on the efficient farming techniques essential to build the stronger, more profitable businesses which are needed to deliver the growth that the industry aspires to. The training will also relate to the environment and equip them to help farmers manage their emissions through the measures featured in the Greenhouse Gas Action Plan.

The elements are in place and the enthusiasm is there within the industry to tackle the challenge - the issue now is about the funding to prime the pumps and get the primary production sector moving.

It is to be hoped that finance to fund new initiatives and focus producers on the opportunities to develop their businesses will soon be forthcoming.

 The uncertainty about existing funds in the form of the Single Farm Payment which underpins much of the primary production in Northern Ireland is an area of some concern. As some of our most efficient and productive farmers face the major investment necessary for growth, this source of funding is at risk of being reallocated away from them. 

 A case of two steps back before we start the race for growth.

With the growing season just a few weeks away farmers have still time to make a small investment which can repay handsome dividends in terms of the profitability of their business.

“ A simple soil analysis, costing less than half a bag of fertiliser is the first step in ensuring that the right balance of nutrients is applied to grass or arable crops” according to Tony Mc Ivor of Gouldings Fertilisers. “The benefits of meeting the needs of the growing crop are obvious in terms of maximising yield – but also in saving in fertiliser costs. Without an analysis to guide the fertiliser program some nutrients could be wastefully applied while lack of others could limit production.”

The pH or lime status of the soil is the first and critical consideration. The availability of nutrients in the soil is highly dependent on its pH - for example soil phosphate is only half as available at pH 5.5 as it is at pH 6.5. Getting the pH right will unlock the full value of applied slurry and fertiliser.

The next step is to build a fertiliser program based on the analysis and which gives the balance of nitrogen to phosphate and potash which is key to maximising crop yield. In the ten years since the introduction of the Nitrates Directive phosphate applications have been closely monitored and analysis is important to ensure compliance - but also establish that soil P status is adequate to support the required  crop yield. Potash status is often the limiting factor in arable crops and in silage production where a shortage of this nutrient is a common cause of disappointing yields. While slurry is a valuable source of potash it is not always practical to apply sufficient volumes and on many fields an application of straight potash ahead of the growing season would be required to restore K status and would produce significant yield benefits.

Getting best value from applied fertiliser is also a matter of timing and farmers are advised to sow early and take full advantage of the high yield potential of spring grass. In the early part of the season every £1 spent on fertiliser will produce a return of £7 to £8 worth of grass dry matter. This conversion efficiency falls steadily through the summer so the aim should be to maximise yields of first cut silage when it can be produced at the lowest cost.

Fertiliser demand firming

Fertiliser pricing this season has reflected the fact that 70% of the fertiliser used in Europe is applied to arable crops. This sector tends to be the principal driver of demand and this is reflected in the price of fertiliser locally. The weaker grain prices in late 2013 had taken the heat out of the fertiliser market and early purchasers will be pleased to have been well rewarded. Since then favourable planting conditions across Europe have led to a much increased acreage of winter crop which requires higher fertiliser inputs – this is now driving demand and indicating firmer prices with merchants reporting steady movements of fertiliser to farm as buyers seek to secure supplies at good value.

The lengthening days, the end of the slurry spreading ban and dwindling feed stocks all point towards spring around the corner. A new season beckons and a time when a key consideration for many farmers is the purchase of fertiliser to kick start the new growth and drive maximum production from the land. Hopefully this purchase will be guided by soil analysis and a detailed fertiliser plan to ensure the best possible return from the investment in fertiliser. The selection of products with the balance of nutrients to complement the manures applied and to meet precisely the needs of the growing crop is essential and with timely application will ensure the best possible response.

The fertiliser purchase represents a significant blip in the cash flow of the farm business and often requires a degree of financial planning. Many farmers and fertiliser distributors will have watched the falling oil prices over recent months in the hope that fertiliser prices would reflect the global fall in energy costs. The reality is that the market for natural gas, which is the key component in nitrogen fertiliser production, has been much slower to follow the fall in oil prices and would likely need to experience more downward pressure for nitrogen fertiliser prices to fall significantly as a result.

Spreading Fertiliser
Spreading Fertiliser

It would look as if supply/demand dynamics have taken over and are driving an upward trend that will confound any hopes of cheaper fertiliser in the short term. The emergence of Brazil as a major buyer of CAN (calcium ammonium nitrate) following the introduction of laws restricting the use of AN (ammonium nitrate) in that country is impacting on the global nitrogen market. Brazil’s fertiliser consumption is almost equivalent to the whole of Europe and with limited sources of CAN available throughout the world the effect of this new demand will be particularly felt in areas such as Ireland which are also CAN dependent. 

The struggle to keep up with the growing demand for nitrogen has been exacerbated by urea supply problems in the Middle East, with Egyptian granular urea production running at 60 per cent capacity due to gas supply shortages. Similarly, phosphate and potash prices are also firm, with logistic and mining issues keeping supply and demand finely balanced and not really offering any reductions which would work through to lower NPK prices. Currency is  the other major variable in commodity markets with the strength of the US dollar and the weakness of the euro (the principle currencies for fertiliser trade) driving up prices for European buyers.

Unfortunately Ireland, with no native fertiliser production has no protection against this type of volatility and every shipment has to be sourced from the global marketplace and in competition with all the main agricultural regions.

However there are few investments on the farm which can produce as good a return on investment as fertiliser applied in the early spring. The main challenge, as always at this time of the year, will be for the suppliers to get all their orders delivered on time.

 

Having defined the challenges for agriculture in Northern Irelands’ Agri – Food Strategy report the industry awaits the necessary initiatives from government to kickstart the process. The enthusiasm for “Growing for growth” needs to be harnessed soon if the momentum is not to be irretrievably lost. The agricultural supply trade is ready and prepared to play a full part in developing the opportunities for the industry. This sector has seen a steady and consistent growth over a number of years as agricultural output has increased and food production has become the mainstay of the Northern Ireland economy. Investments have been made in plant and equipment to improve capacity and efficiency of production. Production costs have been driven down as large multi species mills have increased in size and achieved economies of scale. The growth of the network of country blending operations based on simple mixing of raw materials with minimal processing are also providing low cost nutritional solutions for beef and dairy farms. 

Considerable investments are also being made in the areas of Research and Development and in the training of staff to help farmers deliver – not just food for a growing population but the clean, green countryside for the wider community.

The challenges of the coming years will be about bringing science and technology to bear on the need to produce more and more food while reducing the environmental impact of farming.  “Precision farming” and “sustainability” will be the buzz words as the industry seeks to produce more from less. Efficiency in the use of all inputs to ensure that the returns in terms of increased production result in more profitable enterprises – and without damage to the environment.

The responsibility and the role of the suppliers of these inputs in communicating the best possible guidance and advice on their use is accepted by the trade. The establishment of the Feed Advisors Register (FAR) with its commitment to train and develop the expertise to fully support the supply of feeds to farms is a significant step forward.

Every sector has its part to play and it is encouraging to see that the effort and investment made by farmers over recent years to improve the storage and utilisation of farm manures is resulting in significant improvements in water quality. 

There have also been significant investments in the area of food safety - a major issue for the whole food chain, and the animal feed sector with its dependence on the global marketplace for its raw material supply is very aware of the potential for risks and contamination. Effective management of risk is vital and a unique collaboration between the Institute of Global Food Security at Queens University, Belfast and the Northern Ireland Grain Trade Association is currently leading the world in terms of feed assurance. The Food Fortress initiative has been proven “fit for purpose” following a highly successful pilot scheme involving over 90% of the provinces feed production over a 6 month period. Hundreds of samples tested for the main contaminants which threaten the food chain have been tested in an industry wide program which has produced a substantial database of results which is shared with the participants, regulators and industry partners. “The value of a strategically directed program covering the whole industry is tremendous” says Professor Chris Elliot from the Institute of Global Food Security.

“This delivers a greatly enhanced level of quality assurance across the supply chain. The scheme highlights what can be achieved by an industry working together and it is extremely positive in terms of differentiating NI food produce from the rest of the world”.