President of the Northern Ireland Grain Trade Association, Mr Niall O’Donnell, selected Alzheimer’s Society as his chosen charity to benefit from funds raised by members and guests at NIGTA’s 55th annual dinner, which was held in April.

Mr O’Donnell recently visited the national office of Alzheimer’s Society in Belfast and was delighted to present them with a cheque for £3,500.48.  Commenting at the cheque presentation, Mr O’Donnell said, “It is astonishing to think that every three minutes in the UK someone develops dementia and that sadly at present there is no cure.  This highlights the importance of the work carried out by Alzheimer’s Society, funding research to find a cure as well as supporting people who are living with dementia and their families.  I would like to thank NIGTA members and their guests for their generosity in supporting this worthy cause at our recent annual dinner.”

Receiving the donation on behalf of Alzheimer’s Society, Community Fundraiser, Ms Jenay McCartan, thanked NIGTA for their support.  She said, “The last few years have been particularly difficult for people living with dementia and their families, but our incredible supporters, such as NIGTA, are enabling us to continue helping those who need it.  We really value our supporters and couldn’t do what we do without them.”

THE Agri-Food Supply Chain is urging MLAs to back expert science-based advice when it comes to making important decisions on the Executive Climate Change (No.2) Bill. The Bill, tabled for discussion on February 1 will see MLAs debate and vote on clauses of the proposed climate change legislation.

One of the key recommendations proposed is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Northern Ireland by 82 percent by 2050. This is a target the agri-food supply chain regards as highly ambitious, but attainable. Members of the supply chain agree that there is an imminent need to address global warming and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The industry is calling on MLAs to do the right thing, back the science and expert evidence behind the targets in the Bill and afford the industry an opportunity to make real and meaningful change in the years ahead, while not compromising our role in providing high-quality, affordable food.

Imploring MLAs to back the proposals outlined in the Bill, Ian Stevenson, Chief Executive of the Livestock and Meat Commission, said, “The Executive Climate Change No. 2 Bill sets out an 82 percent reduction in Northern Ireland greenhouse gas emissions. This is the recommended target for Northern Ireland as set out by the UK Climate Change Committee. This is a very challenging target but one that industry can work towards as it should be technically possible to deliver such a reduction without decimating the industry.”

Conall Donnelly, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Meat Exporters Association supported Ian’s comments and went on to outline that the industry is aware that some MLAs will seek to table amendments to the Bill in a bid to alter proposed targets. “We must remain mindful that beef, lamb and dairy contribute over 50 percent of the £5billion turnover of the agri-food industry in Northern Ireland. The sectors also help support a significant percentage of the 113,000 jobs connected to agri-food. When tabling or supporting amendments MLAs should not seek to undermine or contradict the vital contributions made by our sector.”

Mike Johnston, Chief Executive of the Dairy Council for Northern Ireland reiterated the important role of livestock farming here.

Mike said, “Rural communities in every corner of Northern Ireland from Coleraine to Craigavon and Lisnaskea to Larne depend on ruminant livestock farming and food processing. The ruminant sectors in Northern Ireland are a key part of UK and European food supply and those MLAs who would advocate a contraction of our industry to meet unrealistic greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets in Northern Ireland beyond 82 percent by 2050 need to take a long hard look at themselves.”

Gill Gallagher, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Grain Trade Association said, “The agri-food sector is an integral part of the Northern Ireland economy. The proposed 82 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions should be accepted by MLAs. Anything in excess of this will ultimately result in significant reductions in local livestock numbers and increased imports of food with a higher carbon footprint to fulfil demand. If the Assembly legislates for unrealistic targets, it can do nothing to stop this displacement and the net outcome will be higher global emissions.  The agri-food sector in Northern Ireland produces food to some of the highest quality standards for animal health, welfare and environmental standards and this cannot be undermined by any decision to adopt unrealistic targets for greenhouse gas emissions. The industry is up for meeting the challenge of reducing emissions, but we need our efforts to be supported.”

Coming together the industry chiefs urged MLAs to ask themselves some serious questions in advance of Tuesday’s debate:

Do you support legislation that will diminish our farming base, leaving a supply gap that will be filled by distant suppliers with a higher carbon footprint? 

Will your constituents understand if your vote leads to job transfers to overseas competitors? 

Are you willing to drive up unemployment and poverty in the rural economy?

Together the industry chiefs said, “If the answer to any or all of these questions is no then MLAs need to support the science and evidence based targets in the Executive Bill. Don’t pull the rug from under the industry but work with it through enabling investment, evidence based legislation, research, advice and advocacy. That’s what real political leadership should deliver on Tuesday when this Bill is tabled for consideration.”


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.

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.







Avian Influenza Vehicle Protocol


Avian influenza (AI) is a highly infectious and notifiable animal disease, which has been confirmed in a number of Northern Ireland flocks. 

*Strict biosecurity is critical to avoid the spread of AI*

Vehicle hygiene is vital and full compliance with current biosecurity measures on farm premises must be adhered to so as to ensure that the significant risk posed by animal disease outbreaks and the potential for the spread of disease by vehicles is minimised.

You are encouraged to read and familiarise yourself with the full guidance issued by DAERA (see Downloads section of this website for DAERA Avian Influenza Protocol for Vehicles operating within Disease restricted Zones -

Summary of key points:

  • Keep deliveries and lorry movements within the restricted zones to a minimum (whether poultry or non-poultry calls).
  • Clean and disinfect all vehicles before leaving restricted zones and when leaving from/returning to base. Pay close attention to wheels and guidance provided.
  • Park on hard standing away from farm animals/excreta, and avoid turning in these areas, where possible.
  • Wear appropriate PPE AT ALL TIMES while on premises in restricted zone.
  • Avoid entering poultry houses if at all possible.
  • Use DAERA approved disinfectant with dilution rates applied as per ‘POULTRY DISEASES’ - Approved Disinfectants | Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs ( 


DAERA operate an avian influenza text alert service, which you are encouraged to sign up to so as to keep up to date with the latest news.  You will receive immediate notification of any disease outbreak or other important disease information.

Simply text ‘BIRDS’ to 67300.


The following link provides access to a map showing the Protection and Surveillance Zones for AI in Northern Ireland –


For more information on AI and the evolving situation please visit the DAERA website -

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.”