Belfast Telegraph

Bank reveals farmers can look forward to greener pastures

The Northern Ireland agricultural industry can look forward to a positive year ahead, according to Northern Bank.

Head of agricultural relations John Henning said 2012 will be challenging for farmers but pointed to plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the performance of the industry, not just for the next 12 months but also for the longer term.

"As one of the few sectors that has continued to perform well in the past number of years despite the economic downturn, there is reason to be optimistic about the performance of the agricultural industry this year and into the longer-term future in Northern Ireland."

Speaking at yesterday's Northern Bank Agri Outlook Breakfast in the Lyric Theatre, he said the sector's biggest challenge will come from Brussels.

"There is no doubt that Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform will be the biggest challenge we will face in the next few years and its impact will be felt in the longer term," he continued.

"The current proposals around the CAP are far from where they need to be for Northern Ireland. It is vitally important that all stakeholders engage in the consultation process to influence the negotiations at local, national and European level, lobbying to maximise the CAP budget and ensure any redistribution of the Single Farm Payment (SFP) is equitable."

Meanwhile, Northern Bank chief economist Angela McGowan said the agriculture industry here isn't insulated from the eurozone crisis.

"The continued slippage in the euro could have a far-reaching impact on the agriculture industry, which has in recent years benefited from the relative weakness of the pound versus the euro," she said.

"A strengthening of the pound against the euro in the coming months would result in UK agriculture exports becoming less competitive and would in turn see imports become cheaper. This could also have a negative impact on the single farm payment."