Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) deputy president, William Irvine, alongside industry representatives from Fane Valley, Agrii and DBS Farm Supplies, are seeking clarity on autumn cereal seed availability and movement from Great Britain (GB) into Northern Ireland (NI). The deputy president said:
 “The UFU requested meetings with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) officials to discuss necessary processes and protocols for getting autumn cereal seed inspected, certified and moved in a timely and orderly fashion from GB into NI.
“The NI Protocol has negatively impacted agriculture inputs and, in particular, the movement of cereal seed which is limiting the choice of varieties that will be made available in NI for our growers. “There is also the issue of additional testing and labelling requirements for smaller seed lots which will not be economically viable going forward.” He added: “While the current regulations allow for movement, it’s vital that, due to the limited seed selection, farmers plan ahead and place orders now with their merchants.

UFU hopeful

“With forward planning and good communication along the supply chain, the UFU and trade representatives are hopeful seed ordered and placed in the system should be delivered on time.
“The weather dictates autumn seed demand and historically, there is often an open window for late seed orders. However, this will be problematic if not impossible with the additional administration and testing that is now necessary to meet all regulatory requirements.”
Additional meetings, involving the UFU have also been held with the UK’s Chief Brexit negotiator Lord Frost and other EU officials on cereal seed and plant protection product availability. The UFU will continue to liaise with DAERA officials and will monitor the situation on the ground. When asked if cereal seed cannot be sourced from the Republic of Ireland (ROI), a UFU spokesperson referred to differing seed varieties and differing certifications standards, adding:
“The issue is also about the disruption in the supply chain and the impact on long established trading relationships with seed houses in GB. ROI would tend to bring seed from England as well, particularly if they have a poor harvest in the south and good planting conditions driving up seed demand.
"The excess seed won't always be available in the south, as would be the case in England, due to scale and weather conditions,” the spokesperson said.