The Northern Ireland Grain Trade Association is pleased to announce the appointment of Ms Gill Gallagher as Chief Executive.

Ms Gallagher succeeds Mr Robin Irvine, who will retire after 9 years leading the organisation. Robin will continue working with NIGTA until the end of the year and thereafter will remain responsible for the management of the Food Fortress programme. 

With a background in agriculture and environmental policy, Ms Gallagher has spent most of her career in the agri-food industry, having graduated from Queens University Belfast with a law degree and Master’s in Environmental Law and Sustainable Development.  She was a Policy Officer in the Ulster Farmers’ Union and also worked for Mash Direct as a Marketing Executive, before taking up a post with Devenish Nutrition as Sustainable Agriculture Manager.  During her time with Devenish, Ms Gallagher worked closely with NIGTA, supporting and representing the Association on environmental and sustainability matters, as well as helping to deliver environmental training to feed advisers across Northern Ireland through the Feed Adviser Register program.

NIGTA’s President, Mr Niall O’Donnell, said: “We are delighted to welcome Gill as the new Chief Executive of NIGTA.  She has a strong background in the industry and particularly in the area of sustainability. This is a high priority for our members, and we are committed to playing our part in reducing the environmental impact of livestock production.  Prior to joining NIGTA as CEO, Gill was actively involved in delivering our FAR (Feed Adviser Register) training programme to feed advisers across the Province, equipping them with knowledge on best practice to guide farmers in how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and nutrient losses on farm.  Her knowledge and expertise in this field will be key to tackling the challenges that lie ahead for our industry, particularly on our journey towards net zero carbon. 

“I would also like to thank Robin Irvine for his outstanding contribution to NIGTA over the past 9 years.  He has expertly steered the industry through various challenges and has enabled the Association to grow from strength to strength.  Robin worked closely with the Institute of Global Food Security at Queens University to establish our world leading Food Fortress surveillance programme which now covers 6 million tonnes of feed production per year. We are pleased that he will continue as the Director of the program and will lead the further development of the Food Fortress network.”

Ms Gallagher said: “As the first link in the food chain and the hub of our local agricultural supply trade, NIGTA plays an invaluable role in our agri-food industry, which has shown profound resilience in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, whilst also managing new trading arrangements under the Northern Ireland Protocol.  I look forward to working with our members, industry stakeholders and government in future trade discussions and to continuing efforts to improve the environmental footprint of livestock production and protect the integrity of the supply chain.”

Local importers and feed manufacturers are facing a perfect storm with weather events and hedge fund activity combining to drive up global commodity prices - and now there is the additional impact of a 3 week long port strike in Argentina.

Soya loading at Rosario, Argentina.
Soya loading at Rosario, Argentina.

Argentina is the major supplier of soyabean meal and soya hulls to the European market and its principal port which normally handles around 5 million tonnes of grain and feed materials per month at this time of year has been at a standstill from 9th of December. A strike by port workers brought an end to all crushing and loading activity and it is estimated that there is now a backlog of 160 vessels in the queue waiting for a berth and racking up millions of dollars in demurrage charges every day. It took government intervention to resolve the dispute and loading has resumed in the past week. The result is a break in the supply chain for soya products and it will take several weeks to fully catch up with the backlog. The availability of both soymeal and soyhulls will be severely disrupted pending the arrival of delayed shipments to Ireland anticipated in early February.  Local feed compounders are managing their usage over this period and have looked to other origins for soyameal to bridge the gap, including European crushed material to ensure continuity of supply to their customers.  The demand for this and other replacement proteins is driving up the protein market and availability is now very tight on some materials. Sugar beet pulp is being widely used to eke out the diminishing supply of soya hulls and is also trading at a premium. 

Hopefully the supply related price spike will be short-term - the longer term fundamentals, however, look set to support firmer prices for the foreseeable future.

Grain markets have firmed in recent weeks as exporters attempt to step out of the world market either through price or policy.  The Russian government recently put restrictions on exports of wheat from the middle of February in an attempt to halt rising food inflation.  The Argentine government, with its failing economy and rampant inflation, has halted any new export licenses for corn until new crop.  These restrictions only serve to shift demand to the EU for wheat and the Black Sea for maize.  Both regions which have had extremely poor harvests in recent months and do not have the grain to satisfy further demand.

The La Nina weather effect in South America is reducing new crop expectations in terms of the maize and soya harvest in that region fuelling concerns of a tighter supply from the world’s principal exporters. These weather concerns combined with a very tight US soybean stock situation has attracted significant managed money inflow in recent weeks. Chicago trading is reflecting a new influx of fund buying across the main feed commodities - they are holding record long positions, probably on the basis that in turbulent financial markets grain and feed commodities are a safe place to invest. The markets continue to be supported by strong demand from China where the recovery in the pig herd is happening a lot faster than the market expected. This is keeping up the supply pressures across the main feed commodities and it will take time and rebuilding of global stocks before markets can relax.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fields of Life was selected as the Northern Ireland Grain Trade Association's charity for 2019.

This years NIGTA annual dinner raised £5000  for the charity and the President of NIGTA, David Garrett, recently visited the Fields of Life headquarters in Lisburn to make the presentation.

NIGTA President David  Garrett, right and NIGTA Chief Executive Robin Irvine, left are pictured handing over a cheque to David Hall, Fields of Life. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
NIGTA President David Garrett, right and NIGTA Chief Executive Robin Irvine, left are pictured handing over a cheque to David Hall, Fields of Life. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

The Grain and Feed Trade’s cycle relay has been very well supported in Northern Ireland with £5,300 raised for Rural Support at their cycle event in July.

NIGTA president Michael Mc Aree congratulated the 34 cyclists from 13 supply businesses who participated in the cycle “ This is a tremendous effort from the trade and we are delighted to be able to make a significant donation to those in the farming community who are suffering difficult circumstances”.

Cyclists-at-Chestnutts
Cyclists at Chestnutts


Chief Executive of Rural Support, Jude McCann said, “We would like to express our sincere appreciation to all the cyclists, feed companies across Northern Ireland and the Grain Trade Association who took part in this tremendous effort. The funds raised are extremely important for our charitable organisation which assists farmers and farming families across the province. In the face of major restructuring within our industry the services of Rural Support are extremely important. This significant donation is very much appreciated at this particular time.”

The Northern Ireland leg was part of a 3,700 mile tour of the United Kingdom which has raised in excess of £60,000 in support of rural charities.

With the local grain harvest now underway farmers are looking for a period of settled weather to get the crop safely gathered in. The signs are positive for local growers with a good crop in the fields and strong grain prices driven up by supply concerns in the global maize market. The market has also been supported by concerns about adverse weather affecting quality in the main wheat growing regions of the EU, Russia and North America. This has the potential to put downward pressure on the feed grain price if significant tonnages of milling wheat are downgraded.

The grain harvest has got off to a good start with the winter barley crop largely completed in good conditions.
The grain harvest has got off to a good start with the winter barley crop largely completed in good conditions.

“The winter barley crop has benefited from the dry weather and sunshine we have enjoyed over recent weeks resulting in excellent moisture contents with little or no drying required and no concerns about mould growth or mycotoxin contamination. Grain quality is also good and we aren't seeing any difficulty meeting bushel weights. Wheat crops are also looking good and given favourable weather we can hope for a good crop of quality grain at harvest” according to Robin Irvine of the N I Grain Trade Association. 

“The outlook on prices is very positive for growers with indications that winter barley has traded at around £180 to £185 per tonne delivered and while the wheat harvest is still a few weeks away it is anticipated that wheat prices will also be well up on last year.

Most of the provinces 60 odd feed mills will aim to source grain from local growers. While the majority of their requirement will be purchased in advance on monthly contracts through the year grain buyers generally adjust their contract arrangements in the harvest months in anticipation of offers of native grain. These transactions are normally based on long term relationships and goodwill rather than formal contracts and depend on good communication between growers and purchasers as to tonnages, quality and timing of deliveries. Millers will require that the grain is quality assured and that each delivery is accompanied by a passport which provides details of storage, haulage and any pesticides used. Quality requirements may vary between buyers but typically a maximum of 15% moisture with a minimum bushel weight of 62 kgs/hectolitre for barley (possibly 64 kg/hl if it is going into pig or poultry feed) and 72kgs/hl for wheat is the accepted standard. 

Looking forward - It is likely that GB will step up as a major supplier of wheat to Northern Ireland following the major reduction in last year’s harvest which massively cut their tonnage for export. Barley will continue to be a popular ingredient for ruminant rations and is particularly competitive in light of the current maize prices. The international grain and feed material markets are likely to stay firm in light of continued strong demand and ongoing weather concerns but volatility can never be ruled out and there are always number of factors which can affect the market sentiment”.

The Brexit withdrawal agreement to which government are now committed will have a significant impact on businesses in Northern Ireland and unlike the earlier attempts by Theresa May it will mean a changed relationship between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom. The border in the Irish Sea will create an additional administrative burden for materials or product entering Northern Ireland from the UK mainland. The potential for further complication in terms of different duties applied to this trade will depend on whether the UK can negotiate a deal with the EU over the next 12 months or so. 

The advantage of the agreement over a no – deal outcome is that Northern Ireland will remain in regulatory alignment with the European Union, with access to the single market for the foreseeable future, while the rest of the UK will seek to pursue new trade deals and will be free to develop their own regulatory rulebook. 

While local farmers and businesses will continue to conform to European standards for at least 4 years (with a further 2 year withdrawal period should our assembly decide to end the arrangement) – there is however no indication that they will continue to enjoy the EU system of farm support. 

The £240 million of single farm payment which is essential to the viability of local farming may be lost in favour of unspecified and unquantified package of incentives for environmental protection.

A major concern in all of this is how can Northern Ireland businesses engage with the EU when the rest of the UK has withdrawn. The UK government have already removed their civil servants from Brussels and UK agencies will no longer be eligible for membership of many European committees and forums across a wide range of activity.  

According to NIGTA Chief Executive, Robin Irvine “We will be subject to EU regulation – but with no voice at the table when these regulations are being discussed and negotiated. Any divergence between UK and EU regulation has the potential to create distortion in the market and we need to be able to exert some influence to ensure a level playing field. It will be important for local representatives to have access to the various EU rule making bodies and the communication with Brussels will be essential. New bodies and structures -taking a pragmatic approach at an all-island level will also be required to make things work when we can no longer look to London for direction. 

A major concern for the agri-food sector is the potential for this new government - with a substantial majority – not depending on support from the rural areas or from the minor parties – to enter into trade deals which would allow the UK to significantly increase the import quota of cheaper food while still requiring the high welfare and regulatory standards for home produced product.  

This cheap food will be enthusiastically welcomed by the electorate but could be devastating for a region like Northern Ireland where we depend on exporting the vast majority of what we produce. Northern Ireland has a population of less than 2 million people but we produce meat, milk and eggs for almost 10 million consumers. The natural market for this product is mainland UK - but if this market is devalued by open access to imports and competition from low cost regions such as South America Northern Ireland producers will be glad that they still have access to Europe’s 450 million consumers and the challenge will be to refocus the business model beyond the UK shores.”

President of NIGTA, David Garrett speaking at the 54th Annual NIGTA Dinner welcomed visitors and guests to the event:

Before I propose a toast to the association, I would like to say a few words about our industry, its successes, its opportunities and the challenges we face. Moreover, how we might be able to overcome some of those challenges.

I am delighted to report on a year of significant growth in demand for animal feeds across all sectors.

Pictured at the Northern Ireland Grain Trade Association Annual Dinner were, from left: Gary McIntyre, Speaker; Geoff Miller, Guest Speaker; David Garrett, President, NIGTA; Ruth Brammal, NIGTA and Robin Irvine, Chief Executive, NIGTA. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
Pictured at the Northern Ireland Grain Trade Association Annual Dinner were, from left: Gary McIntyre, Speaker; Geoff Miller, Guest Speaker; David Garrett, President, NIGTA; Ruth Brammal, NIGTA and Robin Irvine, Chief Executive, NIGTA. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

I would suggest that the feed industry is the bellwether of a healthy food industry and to quantify that, every weekday in Northern Ireland, we produce ten thousand tonnes of animal feeds. That was over 2.6 million tonnes in 2018.

This past year we have experienced strong demand for ruminant feeds, which was anticipated considering the weather challenges and forage shortages that farmers have faced over the past couple of years. From flooding to drought, they have had to be resilient to cope with it all.

Increasing pig feed demand has been a feature for many years now and greatly improved genetics has led us to the point where we are producing as many pigs now as 20 years ago with far fewer sow numbers. Our factories want more pigs to remain efficient and to meet market demand, so there is further potential growth there to be grasped.

Poultry feed demand continues to grow, especially for layers and broilers. The increasing demand for chicken and eggs has been a feature in homes across the UK and beyond and our farmers and food businesses here in Northern Ireland have been very successful in getting a significant share of that business.

The success of our burgeoning feed industry is echoed across Europe and indeed globally. The Alltech Global Feed Survey estimates world animal feed production at 1.03 billion tonnes in 2018, up 3% on the previous year.

Each week the population of the world’s cities grows by 1.3 million people.

The increasing demand for feed is due to these growing urban populations wanting to eat more meat and dairy food products.
This can create its own challenges as many consumers now have little connection to food production or knowledge of farming.

City dwellers, particularly in affluent societies can often misunderstand farming practices and as a result, they can gain the impression that animals are harshly treated. It is not a fair representation as farmers care passionately about the welfare of their livestock.

We can only meet this increasing demand for food by the application of good science and technology including the use of products, which protect animal welfare.

One such example is the use of Ionophores as coccidiostats. Recent media attention on these additives demonstrates the misguided and unscientific perceptions, which add nothing to food safety but have the potential to impair efficient production, harm animal welfare and add to the cost of food.

It can be difficult to have a sensible debate with people who believe something strongly because of propaganda on social media, however erroneous.

On social media especially, “Beliefs Trump Facts”.

The disruptive and malicious activities of some pressure groups towards livestock farmers is something that ought not to be allowed to continue.

Farmers have enough to do without having to defend their farms against wanton vandalism as is happening in some parts of the UK.

The agri-food sector in Northern Ireland is our biggest industry, biggest export earner and provides high levels of quality employment.

Our livestock sector is highly efficient and well managed. Output has grown through efficiencies at farm level, involving better genetics, improved nutrition and more integrated supply chains.

Efficiencies of scale have also played a part in growing our industry and many farms are orders of magnitude larger than a generation ago.

The grain trade has supported this growth through investment in plant and equipment, in research and development, in the establishment of robust quality systems to protect the food chain and most importantly of all, by training our people to produce better nutritional solutions, provide relevant advice and to deliver much of the technical support that the industry needs.

It is clear that our industry is now attracting bright young people at the start of their careers. This bodes well for our collective future.

We as an agri food industry are heavily dependent on selling our food products outside of Northern Ireland. We export three quarters of our production with mainland GB and its large population a ready market for our wares.

This is a success story for our industry and for our food companies but it does bring challenges. Our industry now carries the environmental footprint of food consumed beyond our shores as well that of our local customers.

Sustainability has been a major challenge as the industry has grown and as a trade, we recognise that the efficient use of inputs and the reduction of emissions to our atmosphere and our waterways is a key area, which we can influence.

Our industry is meeting the challenge of more environmentally sympathetic farming with the ongoing training being delivered to our registered feed advisors.

The FAR training program has been refined and developed by NIGTA and endorsed by all the industry agencies and regulators.

Over 130 FAR advisors are registered here in Northern Ireland. These are our sales specialists and technical experts who are talking to farmers every day.

They are the trusted people that our farmer customers listen to and this means we are in a position to deliver the key messages on nutrient efficiency – particularly in terms of feed and fertiliser inputs.

The concept of efficiency is readily understood at farm level and efficiency in nutrient management ensures financial efficiency for the farmer as well.

I would like to thank Gill Gallagher for all the work she has put into this and to CAFRE for its help in the delivery of the training at Greenmount College to address the environmental challenges faced locally.

Farmers are aware of the need for environmental responsibility in terms of reducing phosphorous and ammonia emissions and now they get the best possible advice to achieve it. The trend for more accurate rationing of all farm livestock has led to lower levels of phosphorous and protein in diets.

Each one percent reduction in protein leads to a reduction in ammonia of eight percent, with a commensurate reduction in phosphorous, because many high protein ingredients also have high phosphorous levels.

With that in mind, I would urge all parties involved in the planning process to work together to facilitate the continued growth of our industry by allowing new development where it is more efficient than what it replaces and where it improves the environment by reducing the emissions of ammonia and other potential pollutants.

We do not want to see narrow environmental considerations cap our ambitions to grow.

The big picture must be taken into account in that we have no polluting heavy industries and a much lower vehicle density than in GB.

The greatest uncertainty we are still facing is the withdrawal (or not) of the United Kingdom from the European Union.

Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland have had an open border for trade in the single market for 26 years since 1 January 1993.

Put in context, that is a whole generation...

Over those years, the economies and especially agri-businesses on both sides of the border have grown, integrated, and blossomed. The threat of a customs border is understandably weighing on the minds of all of us that would be affected.

To borrow a strapline, we have grown better together and we do not want to jeopardise that progress.

Our supply chains now operate on an all-Ireland basis - often with short lead times. The efficiencies that have allowed grain and other cargoes to offload in multiple ports could be curtailed with different treatment of imports between UK and EU.

Any delays or complications to our supply chain, physical or otherwise, will inevitably create additional costs that business will need to absorb or pass on to the end consumer.

Our feed mills and livestock producers depend on imports of over two and a half million tonnes of feed materials.

We therefore need to have tariff-free access to the global market for grains and proteins to ensure a competitive cost base for local farmers and a level playing field with our nearest competitors.

In GB, the situation is significantly different with a substantial arable sector producing a high level of self- sufficiency in feed grains.

It is highly regrettable that we have been without a working executive at Stormont at the time of our greatest need.

Nevertheless, NIGTA has been at the forefront in working with other stakeholders within the Agri-food sector to ensure that the integrated nature of our agri food industry is understood, and the unique consequences for Northern Ireland are recognised in Whitehall.

Special thanks must go to Declan Billington, Michael McAree, Keith Agnew and others for their commitment to representing our industry’s interests in the face of all the challengesof leaving the EU.

I have the privilege to nominate our charity this year.

Many people say that charity begins at home and I see that many of our local charities are well funded. However, folks in Northern Ireland are more than generous in supporting overseas charities as well.

This year I have nominated “Fields of Life” which operates in east Africa. Many of you will be aware of the great need in that part of the world currently where even fresh clean drinking water is a luxury.

Here we put on our feed labels, “ensure access to fresh clean water” for the welfare of our animals.

It is fitting then that we think of others that are not as well off as our animals when it comesto the most basic of life’s necessities.

I would urge you to give generously to this worthy cause this evening.

Finally, I would like to recognise the hard work of our CEO Mr Robin Irvine. He ensures that the association is run smoothly and fairly represents the interests of its members and by extension, their customers.

I want to take this opportunity to thank him for the valuable support he is giving to me while I fulfil the duties required as President.

I would also commend him for his valuable work with Food Fortress as the membership and engagement across the Island of Ireland has continued to grow.

On behalf of the Grain Trade, I would like to thank members and their guests for your continued support of the Association.

Rest assured the executive will continue to work hard for the interests of our members through what is expected to be an interesting and challenging year ahead.

In proposing a toast to the association, I would ask you all to charge your glasses and be upstanding as we drink to our Association and its continued success as a partner to andadvocate for agriculture and the food industry here in Northern Ireland...

“The Association”

The local feed trade turned out in force to support the round Britain cycle tour of feed mills and grain businesses throughout the UK. 

NI Grain Trade Association members ready for the off in the  Grain & Feed Tour Charity Bike Ride 2018. All funds raised in Northern Ireland will go to assist with the work of Rural Support NI. Pictured front from left: Michael McAree, President, NIGTA; Robin Irvine, CEO, NIGTA and Jude McCann, Rural Support NI. The cyclists who took part in the local leg of the charity bike ride are back from left: Vincent Shannon, Ed Brown, Niall O Donnell, Nicky Lamb, Gavin McDonald and Peter Davidson. Middle row: Stuart Purvis, Brian Conway and Ben Frazer. The Rural Support Helpline is 0800 138 1678. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
NI Grain Trade Association members ready for the off in the Grain & Feed Tour Charity Bike Ride 2018. All funds raised in Northern Ireland will go to assist with the work of Rural Support NI. Pictured front from left: Michael McAree, President, NIGTA; Robin Irvine, CEO, NIGTA and Jude McCann, Rural Support NI. The cyclists who took part in the local leg of the charity bike ride are back from left: Vincent Shannon, Ed Brown, Niall O Donnell, Nicky Lamb, Gavin McDonald and Peter Davidson. Middle row: Stuart Purvis, Brian Conway and Ben Frazer. The Rural Support Helpline is 0800 138 1678. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

The Northern Ireland section covered close to 300 miles on a 3 day circuit of the province – Starting in Belfast Harbour – via Newry, Armagh, Pomeroy, Omagh, Randalstown, Stranocum and finishing up in Larne. 

A Titanic cycle - Michael McAree, right, President, NI Grain Trade Association with NIGTA members, Ben Frazer and Peter Davidson who cycled in the local leg of the Grain & Feed Tour Charity Bike Ride 2018. All funds raised in Northern Ireland will go to assist with the work of Rural Support NI. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
A Titanic cycle - Michael McAree, right, President, NI Grain Trade Association with NIGTA members, Ben Frazer and Peter Davidson who cycled in the local leg of the Grain & Feed Tour Charity Bike Ride 2018. All funds raised in Northern Ireland will go to assist with the work of Rural Support NI. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

A total of 33 cyclists from 14 local businesses enjoyed glorious weather as they travelled through some of the most scenic areas of Northern Ireland.

All funds raised in Northern Ireland will go to assist with the work of Rural Support NI. Jude Mc Cann of Rural Support was delighted with the efforts on behalf of his organisation “ Those in the supply trade see at first hand the pressures that many farmers face and understand the stress caused by financial and regulatory pressures - the sense of isolation and  anxiety that can affect both the farm business and the farm household. Our work relies heavily on charitable donation and we greatly appreciate the continued support of the Grain Trade Association.”

NI Grain Trade Association members ready for the off in the  Grain & Feed Tour Charity Bike Ride 2018.
NI Grain Trade Association members ready for the off in the Grain & Feed Tour Charity Bike Ride 2018.

Robin Irvine of NIGTA was pleased with the response from members – “We had cyclists volunteering from all parts of the province and from the small family  businesses to large multinational companies. We are hopeful that this magnificent effort can translate into a significant contribution to the work of Rural Support.

To donate to the fund please go to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/GAFT

Getting ready for the off in the NI stage of the Grain & Feed Tour Charity Bike Ride 2018. All funds raised in Northern Ireland will go to assist with the work of Rural Support NI. Included from left are Robin Irvine, CEO, NIGTA; Richard Cooksley, organiser and NIGTA member, Niall O'Donnell, one of the participants. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
Getting ready for the off in the NI stage of the Grain & Feed Tour Charity Bike Ride 2018. All funds raised in Northern Ireland will go to assist with the work of Rural Support NI. Included from left are Robin Irvine, CEO, NIGTA; Richard Cooksley, organiser and NIGTA member, Niall O'Donnell, one of the participants. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie