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Agri-food strategy represents a missed opportunity

11 November, 2004

Sinn Féin Agriculture Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew has said that the response to the 'Fit for Market' report represents a missed opportunity for the industry.

Ms Gildernew said:

"There are many important recommendations in the report and it is positive that significant funds have been set aside to implement these recommendations. However, it is disappointing that the response and indeed the 'Fit for Market' report have missed the opportunity to make progress on the development of a strong brand for produce from the island of Ireland.

"It does not make sense to argue for an aggressive marketing campaign yet reject the argument for basing such a campaign on strong branding. I agree that it is cost prohibitive to develop a separate brand for the six counties but there is already a well-established internationally recognised Irish brand that we should be building on. This demands that the potential of the all-Ireland agenda is realised.

"Similarly while the development of a cross cutting Food Strategy Implementation Partnership (FSIP) is an advance it is clear that there is no voice for the small farmer and crucially there is no relationship with the relevant agencies in the rest of Ireland and in particular there is a requirement that such a partnership should be working in tandem with Board Bia.

"If we are serious about the future of the agri-industry we must not miss out on the golden opportunity that this should have represented - namely to advance and build upon the clean green image of the Ireland brand that is instantly recognisable throughout the world. We need to move away, as a matter of urgency, from any linkage to the tarnished image of British farming that is famous for BSE and foot and mouth.

"Market development also demands that we give a priority to moving towards a single all-Ireland system of traceability in order to bring as much confidence as possible to potential markets.

"The agri-industry is vital to our rural communities which play and should continue to play an important role in our economy. Any missed opportunity now is an opportunity denied to the industry, to our rural communities and to our economy." ENDS

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