THE Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has submitted its response to the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs’ (DAERA) Food Strategy Framework consultation.
UFU president Victor Chestnutt, right, said: “The Food Strategy Framework is a good initiative, and it should be welcomed. The UFU are willing to play an important role in the circular economy and want to make a difference.
“Progressing forward with the framework, one of the challenges will be identifying the right professionals and ensuring the correct representation is present at every level of the structure. Once the model is set up with the right people at the table, that’s when the hard work will begin addressing many issues such as labels. The UFU want to work in partnership with government to achieve this and find solutions.
“Farmers and growers across Northern Ireland produce high-quality produce and are continuing to play their part in feeding the nation. The UFU are pleased that in this consultation, government continue to recognise the importance of local food.
“Domestic food producers need to be at the centre of future policy. Our farmers’ ability to provide high-quality, nutritious food and drink needs to be linked to supporting the people of NI in enjoying a healthy, sustainable diet based on food produced in this country.
“Food is undervalued and this needs to change – we need to be promoting the high value of NI produce. The journey of food and drink begins with our local farmers and a nation which values high-quality food and drink should also value the production of produce as a basic principle,” said Mr Chestnutt.
Public procurement and food education are two aspects that the UFU feels need to be improved.
Mr Chestnutt continued: “Children need to be aware of where their food comes from and how it’s produced, this is particularly important for young kids who have no direct contact with agriculture. School circulariums need to include food education so that every youngster, regardless of their background, is being properly taught about farming and what foods are in season, as well as being equipped with the necessary skills to prepare and use fresh food.
“Also, public purchasing needs to be more targeted towards buying seasonal NI food. As the food strategy is implemented, surely there needs to be real, deliverable outcome-based targets. There are major benefits to be gained if the words contained within the framework document can be turned into action and we want to help government to ensure this is the case,” said the UFU President.
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