Commodity watch – Horticulture update

Friday, 8 October, 2021

By UFU senior policy officer, Patricia Erwin.

Horticulture profiled high at the Royal Ulster Agriculture Society (RUAS) Balmoral Show, including the awareness and importance of local seasonal produce.  The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) encourage all horticulture producers to lend their support and help empower your UFU vegetable committee chairman Adrian McGowan and vicechair Roy Lyttle, to represent and promote horticulture within UFU, government and beyond.

The Balmoral Show gave a prestigious platform for the launch of Parful Produce from VegNI. This vibrant initiative attracted many visitors from across government departments and businesses, who all echoed the timeliness for such a smart, clean campaign.

With the vegetable growers’ initiative now launched, our UFU vegetable committee moves swiftly onto discussing the long-awaited Northern Ireland (NI) Food Strategy Framework consultation. This policy consultation is very important for all sectors within UFU and the vegetable committee look forward to reviewing the consultation in detail. The committee are well placed to respond from an informed grower and supply chain perspective, ensuring horticulture will be part of the proposed regional economic prosperity journey. Horticulture producers, due the nature of their business and short supply chain, recognise the importance of interconnectedness between the production and supply of quality fresh food, health and the environment.

The consultation has clearly set out a vision for a transformed food system.  Over the coming weeks the UFU vegetable committee will discuss the six strategic priorities identified within the consultation and it can be found on the DAERA website.

  •  Priority one: Building connections between health /wellbeing and food sustainability at the heart of a living, working, active landscape valued by everyone.
  • Priority two: Building sustainable economic prosperity.
  • Priority three: Building a food culture and food conscious society.
  • Priority four: Protecting and enhancing our natural resources.
  • Priority five: Building healthy lives through food education.
  • Priority six: Building and maintaining appropriate emergency contingency plans across the supply chain.

The UFU vegetable committee chair encourages all vegetable producers to get in touch and email their comments to UFU senior policy officer Patricia Erwin (perwin@ufuhq.com), for committee consideration when progressing their response to this timely consultation. 

 

Transparency in supply chains

The UFU vegetable committee have also been reviewing and engaging with fresh produce representatives from the Republic of Ireland (ROI). Establishing transparency is critical along that chain from producer to consumer, and that a differing processor and retailer relationship is evident from that in NI.   

The direction of travel for food in the above consultation is about a sustainable food system that:

  • Is profitable (economic sustainability);
  • Is beneficial for society (social sustainability);
  • Has a positive or neutral impact on the natural environment (environmental sustainability).

The UFU vegetable committee are reviewing how ROI turned their fresh produce sector around and question why such differing prices span the two retail models for fruit and vegetable sales.  

 

Brexit & NI Protocol continue to impact local producers

Access to labour, cereal seed and plant protection products remains a challenge and the UFU monitor the situation daily.  Issues around the availability of fertiliser and prices are currently adding to grower frustrations.  

The potato industry COVID-19 support package is reported to be progressing smoothly, and some potato growers await the decision from Minister Poots regarding an emergency use approval for a desiccant for this year’s late potato harvest.