The agri-food sector has continued to perform well despite the broader economic situation. The food and drink sector in Northern Ireland is worth in the region of £3 billion per annum to the economy and it can play a key role in assisting the Province on the road to recovery.
The DUP is fully committed to ensuring that rural communities are vibrant and sustainable. For instance we have brought forward a vastly improved rural planning policy.
We will continue to press for a well-resourced CAP budget post 2013 that prioritises food security and provides a fair share for Northern Ireland. Farmers should continue to be supported directly through singlefarm payments with regional flexibility within the UK.
Top-slicing of farmers’ payments to fund wider rural development or budget shortfalls should be avoided, and bureaucracy associated with the CAP kept to a minimum. Recognition needs to be given to the environmental processes that local farmers practice. Measures should be introduced to prevent extreme price volatility from exposure to world markets.
Over the next Assembly term the DUP, acting in partnership with our MEP and MPs at Westminster would seek to:
- Enhance Northern Ireland’s reputation as a region for exporting high quality food products, emphasising our grass-based production systems, traceability, animal welfare standards, food safety and access to key markets
- Position the agri-food sector as a central pillar of our economic platform, and draw up a roadmap for future growth of the industry
- Seek to improve the competitiveness of the agricultural sector
- Cut the administrative burden in the agri-food sector
- Focus on value added
- Support the development of viable rural businesses
- Improve animal health, reducing the levels of serious endemic animal and plant disease
- Seek to create a level playing field for Northern Ireland producers
- Develop strong links between tourism and our food produce and countryside, including initiatives such as food trails
- Support local produce and promote a network of farmers’ markets to encourage direct selling from producers to consumers
- Develop a template for the establishment of farm-gate shops
- Provide customers with the maximum information to make informed choices about products they are purchasing, including in restaurants and catering
- Local farmers should not have to compete with imports produced at much lower welfare and production standards
- The DUP will continue to lobby for the ban on Brazilian beef to be retained until it meets the standards expected of producers farming within Northern Ireland
- Explore opportunities to acquire protected geographical indicator status for indigenous products such as Comber potatoes- in comparison to other European regions we have not maximised the marketing potential from achieving this status
- Ensure the Province continues to produce high quality chefs, and promote cookery schools, specialist products and restaurants
- Add value through supporting innovation in new products and the development of new processes to improve productivity
- Seek to remove policies which create barriers to employment, and prioritise the economic value of planning applications
- Promote renewable energy generation on farms including wind, anaerobic digestion and biomass
- Promote utilisation of waste produced both in agriculture and the food processing sector to support the production of renewable energy
- Support a Competition Commission for supermarkets and other means of rebalancing power in the food chain, giving consumers fair prices for groceries and producers a fair price for their produce
- Assist graduate programmes in the agri-food sector
- Promote the Province as a hub for agri-food research
- Support the development of a facility to deal with the Province’s poultry litter
- Continue battling against attempts to alter Agricultural Property Relief on conacre land
- Work alongside our MEP and MPs in lobbying for and securing a future for our entire commercial fishing industry, and highlighting the issues of cod recovery, fish discards, our inshore and inland fisheries and the management of our fishery harbours. DUP opposition to a centralised European fisheries policy has been well documented for many years and at last has been vindicated with even Europe now admitting their approach has failed
- Improve the performance of the fisheries section in DARD to make it more responsive to the needs of the industry