Opportunities exist for sustainable growth in combinable crops, vegetables and potatoes to supply rising demand for animal feed and plant-based foods, according to a new report.
Jointly sponsored by Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) and Ulster Arable Society (UAS), the report which reviews the arable sector in Northern Ireland, summarises its importance and identifies opportunities for the future.
“While the crop areas in NI have steadily declined over many years, a trend which continues today, the report identifies the opportunities for sustainable growth in all three elements of the sector – combinable crops, vegetables and potatoes,” said William Irvine, deputy president, UFU.
“For example, local cereal production only provides 22% of the total animal feed requirements with the remainder being imported, and the interest in plant-based diets has never been greater.”
Bruce Steele, UAS chair, said: “I’m delighted to have been part of the steering group which compiled the report on the NI arable sector.
“With my colleagues Robert Moore, David McElrea and Roy Lyttle, we listened to a broad range of views from growers and our customers along the various supply chains and have, with the help of our facilitator Ian Duff, came up with 12 action threads that are needed to reverse the downward trend and develop our vision for the future.
“This vision can be summed up as ‘a sector which is an integral part of a progressive mixed farming region in which all farm types combine to deliver safe and affordable food that is both economically and environmentally sustainable’.
“We recognise that NI is primarily a grass farming region and believe that by working together, livestock and arable farmers, can deliver a sustainable future for businesses and the environment. We see this very much as a ‘them and us’ not ‘them or us’ future.”
Review Summary and Recommendations for Developing Sustainable Arable Production in Northern Ireland report is available to download at www.ufuni.org/resources.