The Ulster Farmers’ Union has said the decision by Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill and Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster to reappoint the existing members of the NI Agri-Food Strategy Board for a further two years is a positive move.

UFU President Ian Marshall, who was one of the members reappointed to the Northern Ireland Agri-Food Strategy Board, said Northern Ireland’s agri-food industry continues to be a driving force in the local economy and there are still considerable opportunities to take advantage of when it comes to growing and developing this vital industry.

"The reappointment of the Agri-Food Strategy Board demonstrates that the NI Executive recognises this and is committed to supporting the industry to help it reach its full potential.

"As we move into implementing the comprehensive plans laid out by the Board, the decision to reinstate current members ensures that we will have an element of consistency when it comes to delivering the recommendations."

He said that farmers have strong representation on the Board with both himself and former UFU President John Thompson both holding positions and working hard to ensure farmers views are at the fore of discussions.

"For us, the Agri-Food Strategy Board’s ‘Going for Growth’ report would have been meaningless if it did not centre around the message that our industry needs a well-functioning, integrated supply chain that ensures profitability for all supply chain partners, especially farmers, who are the essential starting point as they produce the raw materials. Without this kind of supply chain, there is little point in looking for growth and development.

“As we continue with the implementation process, which has been slower than we would have liked, it is as important as ever that primary producers are strongly represented on the Board’s Sub-Groups and I would strongly encourage those involved to make their voices heard.

“There is definitely a willingness and an appetite amongst farmers to develop their businesses and to see our agri-food industry reach new heights. And with consumers becoming more interested in buying local produce and new export markets opening, we need to be ready for and in a position to capitalise on these opportunities.

"However, industry cannot do it alone, which is why continued support from the NI Executive is imperative.”