Grain Trade Expands Membership Base

Fertiliser companies have joined the Northern Ireland Grain Trade Association in order to strengthen the links within the agri food chain.

Welcoming the first two members from this trade at the annual general meeting the outgoing President, Alan Ashenhurst said "We are delighted that Kemira GrowHow and Gouldings Fertilisers have joined our Association, and I know that other fertiliser companies are considering doing so. The agri food industry needs co-operation throughout the entire food chain. We look forward to working with our new members and we know that we will benefit from their knowledge and expertise."

Alan went on to say that current environmental matters including the Nitrates Directive will present a challenge for all aspects of the industry. NIGTA has been working on phosphorus content of diets in order to help farmers meet the dictates of this directive and the fertiliser industry is concentrating on supplying products to meet the exact requirements of each farm situation.

Positive Future For Milk Production

Guest speaker at the Northern Ireland Grain Trade Association's annual general meeting was Dr Sinclair Mayne, Agriculture Branch, Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) who outlined a very positive future for dairying in Northern Ireland. Following an extremely difficult year for milk producers in 2006, because of the continuing milk price/ cost squeeze, Dr Mayne predicted that the current strengthening of international dairy markets would have a positive effect on milk prices in 2007. This trend should also be sustained thereafter, based on increased international demand for dairy products and restrictions in supply. He predicted higher grain prices worldwide because of increased use of grain for fuel (bio ethanol) rather than for food production. Given the high reliance on grain in most milk production systems, this should push up dairy product prices internationally.

Northern Ireland milk producers are well placed to benefit from higher milk prices due to high reliance on grass and grass silage, with increasing grain prices significantly improving the competitiveness of local milk production systems. Recent research at AFBI Hillsborough (funded by DARD and AgriSearch), and undertaken in conjunction with Dr Duncan Anderson, AFBI Agriculture and Food Economics Branch has developed a Profit Maximising Farm Model for the typical Northern Ireland dairy farm which highlights advantages for local systems.

Dr Mayne concluded by indicating that whilst there was a much brighter future for milk producers, the environmental impact of milk production systems would come under increasing scrutiny. The challenge for ongoing research is to develop sustainable and profitable milk production systems which minimise losses of nitrogen, phosphorus and methane to the environment, whilst maintaining animal performance.