Discussing feed material prices with the NI Grain Trade Association. Diane Dodds, welcomed the news of some softening of prices. Claudine Heron, President told her ‘As NIGTA we have had to deal with the volatile pricing of recent times but some softening of grain and soya levels will feed through ration prices in the coming weeks. However, going forward the markets will be susceptible to harvest vulnerability and the macro global markets.”

Speaking after her meeting with NIGTA, DUP MEP Diane Dodds has said that competing global demands for land use poses challenges for the agriculture industry. Mrs. Dodds also reiterated her calls for a swifter system to deal with GM tolerance and approval.

Mrs Dodds said:

“Meeting with the Northern Ireland Grain Trade Association (NIGTA) was extremely helpful and important. Northern Ireland is a huge importer of grains from across Europe and the World. Given the nature of the intensive production methods we have in Northern Ireland we rely heavily on the need for a constant supply of raw materials and also of cheap materials.

Unfortunately due to volatile markets, weather fluctuations, the drive to increase bio fuel production and speculation the price of raw materials has increased greatly, having a negative impact on livestock farmers’ profit margins. Pressures on land use across the world it definitely changing. The current drive within the USA for bio fuels and indeed across the world is something the agriculture industry will have to adapt to. Of course when demand for a certain raw material increases so will the price. In the UK we should also be aware that many bio fuel plants will be coming into production in the next few years adding even more competition.

While I believe grain prices should increase and allow arable growers an opportunity to improve profit margins and cushion against the huge increases in input prices and years of extremely low profit margins, farm gate prices for other produce needs to increase. During the meeting it was also expected grain prices would stay at historical high levels, but it will all depend on the harvest yield, exchange rate and the relaxation of export bans across the world.

During the meeting NIGTA also highlighted issues which its members are facing in the world market and also at home. The need for a continuous review of the GMO tolerance level and the need for a more efficient GM event approval system are extremely important to ensuring the supply of raw material and hopefully allowing price reductions. NIGTA plan to introduce a new co-ordinated plan and risk based testing programme for raw materials and also compound feed, which will reduce the potential for food contamination e.g. dioxins. I think this is a very responsible position that NIGTA has taken. If successful this will help protect the farmer, processor and the consumer.

Claudine Heron added “The agri-food industry is critical to the economic recovery of Northern Ireland, this was highlighted in a recent DARD report showing how the industry turn-over has grown throughout the recession by nearly £500 million since 2008 to 2010 estimated at £6.68 billion. This was achieved through investment and a growth of sales both at home and in export markets. For this to continue not only does the industry need to continue to strive for quality guarantees and innovation but government bodies need to lend support to enhance export opportunities. For example, for pigment and dairy products, and they should not add additional red tape and costs to business.