Knowledge development ‘fundamental’ to progressing Northern Irish beef industry
Published:  23 November, 2016

All areas of the Northern Irish beef industry have been called upon to work together in developing the sector. 

That was the message delegates took away at the Progressive Beef Production Conference in Co Antrim, on Thursday, 17 November.

“Developing knowledge within the industry is fundamental to the progress of the whole industry,” said Agriculture Minister Michelle McIlveen.

“Working together on research, technology and knowledge transfer provides the building blocks which will take the industry forward and this conference encourages us all to think about how we can improve the efficiency, profitability and sustainability of our farm businesses which, in turn, will boost the entire sector.”

The conference, which was a joint initiative between the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE), the Ulster Farmers’ Union, the Agri Food Bioscience Institute and the Livestock and Meat Commission for Northern Ireland, was designed to provide a platform for new development opportunities from farming and scientific points of view.

“As one of the most successful economic sectors in Northern Ireland, agri-food remains one of our largest manufacturing industries, accounting for 25% of our manufacturing exports and directly employing 14% of its workforce,” added McIlveen.

“The red meat sector is the largest agri-food subsector, generating an income of £1.3 billion, so it is critical to maintain the sector’s competitiveness and sustainability. There are several factors which influence this, including the technical efficiency of production, access to underpinning research, the adoption of new technologies and the quality of our raw materials.”

In October, the Agriculture Minister launched the Farm Business Improvement Scheme (FBIS) Capital Scheme, which was created to support capital investment in the industry. She said that 3,000 farmers were already benefiting from the earlier FBIS Knowledge Transfer Schemes, 1,300 of which were beef farmers. The minister’s department plays a key role in delivering advanced payments, funding for research, and the running of the FBIS Scheme.

“I am very aware that the income from area-based payments is important to the beef industry and I trust that the introduction of advance payments was helpful this year. In addition, I am committed to paying at least 95% of eligible Basic Payment Scheme applicants in December.”

McIlveen concluded by adding that her department funds research at AFBI, which benefits the primary production sector. CAFRE’s education, training, knowledge and technology transfer benefit the scheme by focusing on sustainable beef production.

She said that Northern Ireland had the potential to become a world leader in the area of genetics, with ongoing work taking place from her department in collaboration with industry bodies to develop proposals for a Northern Ireland agri-hub.

“My vision for our industry is a profitable, efficient and sustainable one. Improving production efficiency will not only improve the technical performance of beef production systems and lower costs, but it can also help to meet broader sustainability objectives and deliver better environmental outcomes.”