The recent visit of the new EU Agriculture commissioner to Belfast allowed the opportunity to raise NIGTA’s concerns on a number of issues.

In a question and answer session with businesses in the Agrifood sector we raised the question of official controls and charging for regulation - stressing that more recognition needs to be given to existing schemes run by the industry and that there was the opportunity for regulators and businesses to share information on risk assessment and the results of surveillance and sampling programs. This approach could deliver better value for everyone.

Pictured at the meeting, from left: Prof James McElnay,Pro Vice Chancellor QUB, Owen Brennan, Devenish Nutrition, Commissioner Hogan, Alan  Gibson, Moy Park and Robin Irvine, NIGTA. Photograph: Simon Graham/Harrison Photography
Pictured at the meeting, from left: Prof James McElnay,Pro Vice Chancellor QUB, Owen Brennan, Devenish Nutrition, Commissioner Hogan, Alan Gibson, Moy Park and Robin Irvine, NIGTA. Photograph: Simon Graham/Harrison Photography

The commissioner responded that he was committed to reduce regulation and that he would be using his best efforts to delay any charging for regulation until the system had been reviewed and streamlined so that controls would be efficient and cost effective.

We raised the issue of environmental regulation and commented that regulators failed to recognise the good work which had been carried out by industry. In particular the massive increase in output from the agrifood sector in Northern Ireland had been achieved with minimal environmental impact and the fact that 80% of this output was consumed outside the province was not fully recognised. The commissioner appeared to be sympathetic to these comments and stressed the need for agriculture to grow and not be penalised by unreasonable regulation.

The commissioner also attended an event hosted by Queens University featuring the work of Moy Park and Devenish Nutrition in developing functional foods which bring health benefits to the consumer. This included a presentation on the Food Fortress program which has been adopted by the local feed industry.