Farmers and food producers here can thrive by going green if more is done to help these businesses make climate transition a strategic priority, said the chief executive of Northern Ireland’s leading dairy co-op at the Ulster Bank lunch held on May 12 at the Balmoral Show.
Nick Whelan, Group chief executive of Dale Farm and chair of the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association (NIFDA), called for a new era of collaboration between industry and government to help agri-food firms fulfil their green ambitions and reduce carbon emissions.
Whelan was speaking at the Ulster Bank lunch in the show’s President’s Lounge, as part of a panel which also included Moy Park Agri Business and Live Production Services Director Justin Coleman and Ulster Bank Senior Agriculture Manager Cormac McKervey.
Whelan said: “The biggest challenge we must face as an industry in the years ahead is the need to continue to feed a growing world population in the most sustainable way.
“Dale Farm takes this challenge seriously and sustainability is at the heart of everything we do as a
dairy cooperative – from environmental sustainability through to the economic sustainability of our members’ farms.
“For agri-food as a whole, innovation, investment and data gathering will be key to ensuring the industry plays its part in achieving UK net zero.
“It will also require a new era of collaboration between industry and government, and we look forward to engaging with the new Assembly on these issues.”
Coleman said: “We have always been led by evolving consumer trends and what is very clear is that today’s consumer wants to see businesses make stronger commitments in this area.
“At Moy Park we have the advantage of an integrated supply chain, which assists us in being able to work more closely and more effectively with our growers and customers.
“This in turn is helping us press on with our pledge to net zero by 2040, a commitment which has
been validated by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi).”
Mark Crimmins, Ulster Bank head of Northern Ireland, said: “The Ulster Bank lunch at Balmoral Show has become a key event in the calendar for senior figures from within the agri-food industry.
“What the contributions of Nick and Justin have really highlighted is the importance of partnership within the agri-food sector and it is imperative that farmers feel supported as they make the transition to a new, greener economy.
“Ulster Bank is strongly committed to providing this support so that all businesses, regardless of size or scale, have access to the tools and funding they need to make the most of the opportunities which switching to greener business practices can present.”
The Ulster Bank lunch at Balmoral Show is now in its 12th year and has welcomed speakers including Keelings Retail Chief David Keeling, ABP Managing Director George Mullan, and Professor Grainne Allen, head of product development at Marks and Spencer.