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THE Alliance Party’s South Antrim Shadow Assembly member, Mr. David Ford, has said that the organic farming sector on Northern Ireland clearly needs proper support.

Mr. Ford, who is the Alliance spokesperson for agricultural and rural development, echoed the concerns expressed by David Hawthorne of the Sustainable Agricultural Development Group when he said that it was clear that the Organic Aid Scheme in Northern Ireland was a failure.

The South Antrim assemblyman said:

“When I saw the answers to the Parliamentary Questions recently tabled by Lord Alderdice, I found them almost impossible to accept. Over £300,000 spent on organic agriculture by DANI, buy not a penny of that for ordinary farmers.

“The research activities of Greenmount have been closed down and there is no serious work being done in Northern Ireland in contrast to the situation in the Republic.

“On top of this, while there is increasing demand for organic produce, their area of organic production in Northern Ireland has decreased.”

“It is clearly the time for the Organic Aid Scheme to be scrapped and a worthwhile scheme to be introduced. DANI’s efforts must be directed to practical support for farmers, not isolated research projects with limited value on the ground.

“I believe that organic production is one of the niche markets which farmers in Northern Ireland need to exploit to develop their business. It is disgraceful that we have lost opportunities over the last decade.

“This is typical of the issues that the Assembly will have to take up in the future, to show that local agriculture can be among the best in Europe,” added Mr. Ford.

Commenting on todays statement by the Minister of Agriculture , Councillor David Ford, Alliance Spokesperson on Agriculture, said:

“Dr Cunningham’s Christmas present to farmers is nothing but a sick joke – tokenism of the worst sort. It is far too little and far too late to address the problems of farmers in every section of agriculture across the UK.

“Northern Ireland alone needed £12 million on HLCAs. Suckler cow and ewe premiums needed to be significantly increased. Something needed to be done for other farmers – dairy, arable and pig producers – to offset the effects of the green pound.

“It is clear that this Government has no concern whatever for such a vital sector of the economy. Little wonder that the Secretary of State and Lord Dubs were not prepared to meet farmers last Friday at Stormont.”