Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) president, David Brown believes that the ongoing war in Ukraine has highlighted the importance and fragility of food security at home and abroad.

In turn, he wants to see commensurate support levels put in place for agriculture in Northern Ireland.

If this does not happen, farmers will not have the confidence to continue producing high-quality and affordable food for the public, with skyrocketing input costs showing no signs of easing, he said.

David Brown explained: “The war in Ukraine demands for political priorities to change. If they don’t, the UK is sleepwalking into a disaster on maintaining food supply.

“Farmers are seriously struggling to manage unprecedented inflationary costs. Over the past year input prices for diesel, electricity, steel and concrete have doubled.

“Fertilisers, along with agri-chemicals, have tripled in price over the same time period.

“If government, as well as retailers, don’t step in to ease the pressure, our food security is going to take a massive hit impacting the availability of locally produced, affordable food for consumers.”

Food production systems

The UFU president said that regardless of what type of food a farmer or grower is producing, the safest way to ensure they stay in business is to cut back on the amount being produced which would reduce input costs on-farm.

“However, the implications of farmers doing this are hugely worrying for the rest of society as it would eventually result in food shortages,” Brown continued.

“To help prevent this from happening, government needs to give farmers confidence in the markets otherwise they’re not going to be able to endure a financial outlay this summer and autumn.

“Governments in EU countries are stepping up and supporting their farmers and growers, we need the UK government to do the same.”

According to the UFU president, this summer will be a critical time in the production calendar, both for livestock and dairy farms planning their forage in the autumn and for crops in 2023.

“This is a key time to signal confidence for smooth ordering of inputs and reliable outputs for the next 18 months,” he commented.

UFU survey

The UFU recently met Yara at the Balmoral Show and challenged the large profits reported by that business at the start of 2022. 

“The survey carried out by AgriSearch and the UFU on the impact of high input prices for Northern Ireland farmers, showed that of those that have purchased fertiliser, 72% intend to reduce their application rates which will impact production,” Brown added.

“Yara needs to be looking at what it can do to support our farmers too when they’re making profits, but farmers are having to cut back because of financial pressures.

“It appears that everyone else within agriculture and the food supply chain seems to be doing more than okay with managing increasing costs and yet our farmers are on their knees, which is putting our local food security at risk.”

The UFU president emphasised that farmers provide the critical foundation on which the entire supply chain is built upon, and their farm business is critical for the likes of companies such as Yara.

“Therefore, it’s about time that everyone recognises the importance of our farmers and does their bit to support them, assuring they have the confidence to keep investing in producing our food,” he concluded.