Belfast Telegraph

EU plan levels playing field for our farmers

Anyone with an interest in sport will tell you that a level playing field is essential. It's the reason football teams change ends at half time, in sprint races wind speed is taken into consideration and in F1 motor racing, cars must adhere to strict criteria.

If competitors don't adhere to the rules then the game becomes a farce, and the team with the best advantage dominates the leaderboard.

Imagine then how frustrating it's been for Northern Ireland's farmers over the last few years. They've had to operate under increasing stringent welfare and quality standards.

Whether it's providing roomier accommodation for pigs or chickens, traceability for grain or just making sure to farm in a way which protects the environment, there's no doubt our products can boast one of the best quality stamps in the world.

But it means little when the buyers of our produce - and that includes you, supermarkets - import produce from abroad which doesn't meet our quality standards. In many cases local farmers have to compete on price in this situation and therein lies the unlevel playing field.

Three cheers then for a new EU strategy which recognises high animal welfare standards in the UK. The Strategy for the Protection and Welfare of Animals aims to educate consumers about what they're getting when they buy meat reared under EU welfare codes.

If consumers realise that buying food produced in other areas of the world means it might not have been treated in the way they've come to accept, then it's going to benefit us.

It's not much but it's a start.

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