The Northern Ireland (NI) sheep industry taskforce comprised of representatives of the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU), Northern Ireland Meat Exporters Association (NIMEA), Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association (NIAPA), the Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC), National Sheep Association (NSA) and Ulster Wool has launched its vision for the future of the industry.

The report underlines the importance of sheep production to the NI economy and identifies how it could be supported to deliver much more. It calls for collaboration between government, meat processors and farmers, to ensure the industry has a stable and sustainable future as a key part of the rural economy.

Commenting at the Stormont launch of the report, UFU Deputy President and taskforce chair John McLenaghan, said, “It has been a privilege to lead a group with so much energy and drive.

“The report provides a framework for achieving our vision around a stimulus programme to encourage capital investment, the adoption of best practise to boost resilience, animal productivity, skill development and a continuing reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.”

Mr. McLenaghan said that in the past year sheep producers have felt the impact of rising costs, adding to the pressure to find workable solutions for a sector that is vital for the environment and the rural economy. “We need resilience, increased productivity, and environmental sustainability. Success depends on operating within a properly functioning supply chain and effective and directly targeted support.”

The National Sheep Association regional development officer Edward Adamson said, “This report, if adopted will give the sheep industry a much-needed stimulus and help to move the sector on a pathway towards a more efficient and environmental friendly future.”

Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC) chief executive Ian Stevenson said, “Sheep farming is part of the fabric of NI agriculture, with almost four in 10 farm businesses contributing to sheep production. At a very fundamental level the sector supports primary producers and their families, but also generates employment throughout the supply chain and the wider economy.

“LMC is committed to working with industry stakeholders to enhance productivity while meeting attainable sustainability targets. Supporting the vision of the sheep industry taskforce will help build resilient and dynamic farm businesses, in turn safeguarding this vital sector for future generations.”

The UFU Deputy President and taskforce chair, urged the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs to give serious consideration to the recommendations around targeted support.

“As a taskforce we have outlined our case for a sector that can deliver more for the environment and the economy. Now we need action to ensure delivery,” said Mr McLenaghan.

The Taskforce’s vision is: “A resilient, vibrant and sustainable industry that uses leading edge technologies to deliver safe high-quality meat and wool through increased productivity while adding value by increasing carbon sequestration, reducing greenhouse gas intensity, and enhancing landscape biodiversity while maintaining the mosaic landscape of our hills and uplands.”