Ulster Unionist MLA and Agriculture spokesperson Jo-Anne Dobson has said that closer working relations between supermarkets, processors and farmers are crucial to a sustainable and profitable future for farming.
The Upper Bann MLA made the call following meeting with Sainsbury's public affairs adviser Damien Drumm to discuss what the retailer does to support farmers across Northern Ireland, the challenges farmers are facing and the future of the local supply chain.
Commenting Mrs Dobson said: “I have previously raised my concerns that the current situation has squeezed farm profit margins, forcing many farming families into impossible financial positions.
“As we look towards a New Year and leave 2015 the year of farming crisis behind us the only way to improve the impossible situation faced by farmers is by all elements of the supply chain working closely together. This must be for the overall benefit of the entire agri-food industry in Northern Ireland so that farmers receive their fair share.
“I very much welcome the opportunity to meet with Damien and receive an update from him on the six farmer development groups Sainsbury’s has in Northern Ireland. I know that they will be placing a renewed focus on working through their Beef Development Group to continue to improve the quality of Sainsbury’s beef and improve efficiency within their supply chain.
“As a member of the Agriculture Committee I want to make sure that the Department of Agriculture do all that they can to encourage fair and best practice across all elements of the food supply chain. It cannot be the lions share for the processors and retailers and leftovers for farmers.”
Also commenting Damien Drumm, Sainsbury's public affairs adviser, said: “We know this has been a tough year for farmers across a number of sectors. Our Farmer Development Groups provide a model for us to work closely with the farmers in our supply chains.
"We’re currently working on a new integrated beef system which will provide our beef farmers with a bespoke platform to help track and manage animal performance in order to improve production efficiency and the quality of the product. We look forward to continuing to work with our farmers in 2016”