The tremendous volatility now impacting across agri-supply chains has been confirmed by the Northern Ireland Grain Trade Association (NIGTA).

The organisation’s new president, Patrick McLaughlin, said this has been largely driven by the war in Ukraine.

“During the past 12 months, uncertainty and volatility have dominated the agri-supply trade, largely driven by the devastating war in Ukraine,” he said.

“The invasion has brought the animal feed and fertiliser sectors sharply into focus for all of society.

“This has had a profound effect on the entire economy, not least the feed, fertiliser, and energy markets.

“It has also highlighted the vital role our industry plays, as the first link in the food chain, and the valuable contribution that it makes to our agri-food industry, and to Northern Ireland as a whole.”

Agri-supply chains

According to McLaughlin, every sector within the agri-supply chain has faced its own unique challenges.

“But despite the difficult trading conditions, our entire industry has shown incredible flexibility, agility, and resilience,” he said.

The NIGTA representative also confirmed that his organisation has also been to the fore in addressing the challenge posed by Brexit.

“Through the Northern Ireland Business Brexit Working Group, we have engaged extensively with various officials and stakeholders to bring understanding and influence to issues relevant to the agri-supply sector,” he said. 

“We welcome the Windsor Framework as a step forward,” he continued.

“It is reassuring to see that relations have visibly improved between the UK and EU, which we hope will continue, so that pragmatic solutions can be found to the outstanding issues that are being worked on. 

“In particular, managing regulatory divergence will require properly developed structures and meaningful engagement with business and stakeholders, whereby NIGTA will continue to ensure that the voice of the agri-supply sector is heard.”

Sustainability remains a key priority for NIGTA.

“The reality is that pressure is now coming from both policymakers and the marketplace,” McLaughlin said.

“We are acutely aware of the challenges related to air, soil and water quality, and the risk that environmental targets could become our agri-food industry’s licence to operate.

“But we are also focused on the opportunities available within the animal feed and fertiliser sectors to help support our farming customers in reducing their environmental footprint to enhance the green credentials of Northern Ireland agri-food.

“For many years, we have been proactive in driving forward better nutrient use efficiency, and precision feeding strategies, as well as delivering professional advice at farm level, provided by our (Feed Adviser Register (FAR)-accredited feed advisers,” he said.

“But ultimately, widespread industry collaboration will be needed to help deliver the emission reductions required.”