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Supermarkets using more local products is one positive to Brexit, says Foster


First Minister Arlene Foster

First Minister Arlene Foster

Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

First Minister Arlene Foster

Supermarkets using more local products is one positive to emerge from the disruption to post-Brexit Irish Sea trade, Arlene Foster has said.

The First Minister again called on the UK Government to resolve issues that have hindered the flow of food products from Britain since the end of the transition period.

However, the DUP leader said it would be a positive development if one consequence of the new arrangements was more locally sourced produce on the shelves.

Mrs Foster referred to Sainsbury's responding to the shortage of some supplies by selling NI-sourced Spar products instead.

New requirements on traders to comply with EU single market rules on food safety checks and certifications has led to disruption in the movement of animal-based food products from Britain. This has led to depleted shelves in many local stores.

Giving evidence to her Assembly scrutiny committee, Mrs Foster said: "I did notice that Sainsbury's had taken some of the Spar products into their shops in Northern Ireland, I don't see that as a negative."

She said Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots had told her that Sainsbury's only puts a limited number of products from Northern Ireland in its local outlets.

"And therefore, if they're increasing the number of products from Northern Ireland in their supermarkets in Northern Ireland, I think that's a really good thing actually, because it shows that our produce is being able to take advantage of that."

Meanwhile, Michelle O'Neill warned large retailers that Stormont will legislate to stop them selling non-essential goods if they continue to "take liberties" with Covid guidance.

The Deputy First Minister expressed hope the issue of supermarkets "exploiting" the current lockdown arrangements to sell items that were not essential could be addressed at a meeting with the retail sector on Friday.

But Mrs O'Neill said ministers would regulate to prevent the practice if need be.

She told committee members: "It's not straightforward, but we absolutely recognise that smaller retailers have been disadvantaged because of larger retailers taking liberties.

"We will discuss this again tomorrow with the executive and we also have a roundtable discussion scheduled for Friday with major retailers around this very issue which obviously is very topical.

"None of the smaller retailers, who are doing the right thing and complying and keeping their doors closed, they shouldn't be in any way disadvantaged in terms of the larger retailers who are perhaps exploiting the flexibilities that they currently have.

"But if we have to regulate them, that's what we'll do."

Belfast Telegraph