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Coronavirus threat to 10,000 jobs in Northern Ireland's agri-food industry, warns Poots

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At risk: NI’s agri-food sector

At risk: NI’s agri-food sector

At risk: NI’s agri-food sector

Northern Ireland's agri-food sector could be facing the loss of 10,000 jobs due to coronavirus, the Agriculture Minister has warned.

Edwin Poots said around 100,000 people are employed in the sector, but price drops were likely in key areas like milk, beef and lamb.

"A 10% contraction in agriculture is 10,000 jobs, it's as simple as that," he said.

"We need to ensure that we don't have that contraction and the growth that we have seen in the agri-food sector is something that we can pick up on the other side of coronavirus once again."

He explained 40% of the agri-food market in food services "had closed overnight".

"Retail has not been capable of picking up all of that, therefore it has caused huge distortion," he said.

In the red meat sector, for example, he said the higher value cuts of meat for restaurants were not selling. The milk sector has also been cut off from the airline industry and shops.

The minister added: "These sectors are being very badly and disproportionately hit... but just because you're at the back of the queue it doesn't mean that your needs are any less."

Mr Poots said it would be "absolutely shameful" if agriculture did not get the same support afforded to other sectors.

Earlier, he said he intended to keep the good habits that had emerged during the pandemic.

These include securing Northern Ireland's food supply lines between the UK, Ireland and around the world.

"We've already seen other nations across the world struggle to get food moving off farms and into the retail sector," he said.

"And although the hard work and dedication of our local food sector and farmers means that we haven't had that problem, we must not be complacent. This is an important piece of work.

"We can win this battle, we must win this battle, we will win this battle, and better days lie ahead if we persevere a little longer."

Belfast Telegraph