The Northern Ireland Grain Trade Association is pleased to have the opportunity to respond to the consultation on the Review of Northern Ireland’s non domestic rating system.                                     The association represents the businesses which supply the animal feeds and fertiliser required by the provinces farmers and which are a vital link in the local food chain. 

Re Question 6 - Should Freight and Transport Relief be removed?                                                                    

Our association is strongly opposed to the removal of Freight and Transport Relief.

Re Question 6a - What would be the potential consequences of such a move?                                                                  

Removal of the relief will add cost and reduce the competitiveness of local agricultural businesses.

The agrifood sector in Northern Ireland is our biggest private sector employer (supporting 100,000 jobs) and is our biggest export earner. The sector is based on intensive livestock production and the substantial growth of recent years has been built on the high levels of husbandry and stockmanship on our family farms, supported by sophisticated processing and marketing organisations. 

The provinces agricultural land and farm structure is largely unsuited to grain production and the vast majority of the feed materials required to support livestock production are imported from Eastern Europe, North America and South America. The provinces ports receive around 2.2 million tonnes of grains and protein feeds each year, and with no manufacturer of chemical fertilisers in Ireland, a further 0.25 million tonnes of fertiliser also arrives by ship.          

 Over 70% of the product from the sector is marketed outside Northern Ireland, with mainland UK the main consumer, but with significant exports placed on the wider global market.

In simple terms the agrifood sector imports around 95% of its input requirements and exports over 70% of its product. This emphasises the reliance of the sector on the provinces port facilities.

Our concern is that anything which increases the cost of operating these facilities has a double impact on the agrifood sector – a sector which is already suffering heavily from low global demand and prices which are below the cost of production for many commodities.