Belfast Telegraph

Boom and bust 'now normality' for farmers in Northern Ireland

By John Mulgrew

Farming in Northern Ireland is condemned to live permanently in a "boom and bust" situation, and volatility has become the "new normal" for the industry here, it has been claimed.

Ulster Farmers' Union president Ian Marshall said farmers here could be facing yet another tough year.

"Many farmers will conclude it would be difficult for 2016 to be worse than 2015, with its non-existent summer saved by a good autumn, poor prices for all the major commodities and a weak euro making life difficult for exports and cutting the value of our CAP payments," he added.

His comments came as Northern Ireland begins its Year of Food and Drink - a 12-month programme of events celebrating the produce being made across the region.

Farmers and others in the industry have struggled with a number of issues this year, with many launching protests over poor milk prices. Some claimed they would be put out of business if they were not paid better.

"Volatility, it seems, has become the new normal for farming," Mr Marshall said.

And while many working in the agri-food sector remain positive about the industry here, Mr Marshall warned: "We will most likely continue with our efforts to negotiate changes and find solutions locally, in London and in Brussels.

"However, it would be wrong to suggest there is a magic bullet or a pool of new money that could end these serious difficulties.

"We will continue pressing for measures to ease the cash flow crisis on many farms across Northern Ireland, but realistically we must begin looking to the future.

"We have to find solutions to the damage that is being caused by volatility.

"We need to find ways that young farmers with lots of energy can get into the industry by working with older farmers who want to slow down or leave the industry."

Belfast Telegraph