“The feed trade in Northern Ireland is led by a highly effective and well coordinated body delivering benefit to businesses in the sector and agriculture in general”.  These were the words of David Caffall, Chief Executive of  Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC) speaking to a meeting of the Northern Ireland Grain Trade Association (NIGTA) which is its affilaited organisation in the province. “The recent agreement on a closer working relationship between AIC and NIGTA whereby businesses are offered joint membership of both organisations – ensures that they have a voice not just locally but also in Whitehall and Brussels.   The significant increase in the NIGTA membership in the last year would suggest that this has been well received by the trade”.

Pictured at the NIGTA quarterly meeting were from left: David Caffall, Chief Executive AIC, Guest Speaker; Robin Irvine, Chief Executive, NIGTA; Alan Johnston, President, NIGTA and David O'Connor, Vice President, NIGTA. Photograph: Columba O'Hare
Pictured at the NIGTA quarterly meeting were from left: David Caffall, Chief Executive AIC, Guest Speaker; Robin Irvine, Chief Executive, NIGTA; Alan Johnston, President, NIGTA and David O'Connor, Vice President, NIGTA. Photograph: Columba O'Hare

He added “The development of assurance schemes to safeguard the industry, the formation of a feed adviser register which recognises and develops expertise in advice delivered on farm and the proactive response to the environmental issues around Greenhouse Gas and the Nitrates directive are all evidence of the positive role the trade has played in the wider industry – and of course the Food Fortress program developed with Queens University,  has put the Northern Ireland in a world leading position in the field of feed and food safety”. 

Mr Caffall spoke of the volume of legislation which businesses are subject to - “The environment regulations apply not only to farms but also to feed mills and are ever more restrictive and expensive to comply with. Concerns about the build up of antibiotic resistance in humans (AMR) will mean significant changes to the procedures for ordering and production of medicated feeds which will inevitably add to costs.  We continue to lobby hard to ensure that regulation does not damage the competitiveness of businesses in the feed and supply sector.  On the positive side we are pleased to see increased recognition of the excellent assurance schemes which we have created to ensure high standards of quality and safety throughout the trade. We have convinced the regulators that businesses with a good record of compliance and who are  members of the relevant assurance schemes are low risk and should receive a “lighter touch” in terms of inspections. This is an important principle - given that we can expect the cost of official controls to be borne by the industry in the future”.

Mr Caffall will deliver one of the keynote papers at next weeks prestigeous Oxford Farming Conference on the theme of "Supply Chain in the Balance" which will explore the threats and opportunities which face the industry.