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Income support for farmers during COVID-19 ‘remains unclear’

The Ulster Farmers’ Union UFU have collaborated with members of parliament in Northern Ireland in their review of the U.K.’s food supply during COVID-19.

The UFU submitted evidence to the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) select committee to provide authentication to the review.

Food supply chain

The investigation focuses on access to healthy food during periods of self-isolation and how disruptions in the food supply chain should be managed.

The farming representative organisation have highlighted the work of the Department of Agriculture is working closely with key stakeholders in the agri-food industry over the past number of weeks, including Minister Edwin Poots, who has been working collaboratively with the UFU to try and secure a deal for farmers.

UFU president, Ivor Ferguson, said, “The primary objectives of the UFU throughout this pandemic in addition to protecting human health, were to keep the food supply chain operative, ensure that existing administrative and inspection procedures were minimised where possible and to maintain market returns.”

“The joint actions that have been taken have satisfactorily addressed the operative issues that have arisen until this point, although we’re continuing to work with the Northern Ireland Government to secure necessary seasonal labour for the horticulture and fruit sectors.”

“It’s essential that the government continues to collaboratively engage with agri-food industry stakeholders as we move towards the ‘new normal’ and the COVID-19 ‘unlocking ‘ strategy is developed,” he said.

Income support

However, the UFU has stated that income support for primary producers is an area that still has to be solved. They say that the extent that farmers can benefit from the government’s COVID-19 financial support measures remains unclear.

Ferguson said: “It is expected that what they can avail of will not be enough and a specific direct support for farmers will be needed.”

“Dairy, beef and lamb are either already starting to experience significant producer price reductions or looking forward, farmgate prices for these commodities are to deteriorate further in the immediate and medium-term.”

“Therefore, it is imperative that the UK Government supports the industry through its food procurement policy, and it must also assist with industry promotions to rebalance food markets.”

“Northern Ireland currently produces around 10 per cent of the UK’s requirement for indigenous food products stressing how vital this support is,” concluded the UFU president.

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