Agri-food Strategy Board (AFSB) Chairman Tony O’Neill has written to a range of stakeholder groups this week in a ‘Call for Evidence’, courtesy of which the recently established organisation will start to identify the needs confronting the various land use and food sectors.
The Board was established jointly by Farm Minister Michelle O’Neill and her DETI colleague Arlene Foster to develop a long term Strategic Plan for the agri-food sector.
In the ‘Call for Evidence’ letters Tony O’Neill highlights the absolute importance for Northern Ireland to have a cohesive and well thought out strategy for the agri food sectors in place to meet envisaged changes in the world’s food commodity markets, the CAP and the EU’s approach to regional aid programmes.
Significantly, the Food Strategy Board will be working on the premise that CAP Reform is scheduled to be implemented in 2014 although this depends on when agreement is reached.
Moreover, EU Budget negotiations which will determine the size of the overall CAP Budget are scheduled to conclude by the end of 2012 but it is also quite possible that these will take longer which in turn would delay a CAP Reform agreement.
According to the explanatory documents, which accompany Tony O’Neill’s letter, the European Commission’s current proposals would see a cash freeze in CAP expenditure during the 2014 – 2020 period, which could equate to a reduction of around 15% once inflation is taken into account.
Tony O’Neill’s correspondence also points to possible changes in the Regional Aid programme which, if implemented, will not do Northern Ireland any favours.
AFSB considers it essential that the views of stakeholders in the agri-food sector contribute to the development of the Strategic Plan.
The organisation is therefore seeking evidence from a wide range of organizations that have an interest in the sector.
As part of this process the Board has established nine sectoral sub-groups to gather input from those with direct experience in the relevant sub-sector.
The sub-sectors being considered by the sub-groups are: Bakeries/Snacks; Beverages; Milk and Milk Products; Feed and By Products; Fish and Aquaculture; Arable, Fruit and Vegetables; Pig Meat; Poultry & Eggs; and Red Meat.
However, Tony O’Neill is also making it clear that, courtesy of the ‘Call for Evidence’ initiative AFSB wishes to obtain the views of wider stakeholders.
As a consequence, he is inviting all interested parties to respond to the questions contained in the Call for Evidence documents that are now available.
These can be downloaded from the DARD, DETI and Invest NI websites.
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