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Gildernew pledges continued support for the intensive farming sector

4 March, 2008

Sinn Féin Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew MP, MLA has responded in the Assembly to A No Named Day Motion highlighting the difficulties that farmers face because of rising grain prices.

Addressing the Assembly on the motion, the Minister said:

"I am very concerned with the current situation facing the intensive production sectors. I would like to take the action necessary to influence the cereals or the intensive production markets but the reality is that we are just a small regional player in a very large EU market and as such cannot significantly influence the markets at EU level."

Turning to available help for farmers, the Minister said:

"While I cannot provide any additional funding my Department will assist in whatever way it can, to help producers develop new production systems for the intensive production sector with a view to satisfying the demands of, or need for, new market opportunities."

During the debate the Minister outlined a series of initiatives undertaken to assist the industry through this difficult time. These included meetings with ministerial colleagues to discuss increased public procurement of local produce, correspondence with supermarkets, engagement in the work of the Red Meat Task Force, correspondence with DEFRA, Secretary of State and Mary Coughlan TD to urge support for the re-introduction of export refunds for the pig sector, which were subsequently introduced, and ongoing work with the Ulster Farmers' Union to progress together through the current difficulties.

In addition, the Minister outlined the work undertaken by the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) and The Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) to assist the industry, and referred to support under the Rural Development Programme.

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