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Arable and Horticulture update

Friday, 23 April, 2021

Commodity watch by senior policy officer Patricia Erwin

Access to cereal and protein seeds – plan ahead: Arable and horticulture producers and Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) committees have had both challenging and productive busy weeks of late. UFU co-ordinated DAERA, DEFRA and industry meetings to navigate the rules, regulations and logistics for accessing cereal and protein seeds.  Whilst wrinkles along the supply chain were resolved for spring planting the efforts and discussions now turn to timely access to winter seed requirements for autumn planting. UFU deputy president William Irvine urges all farmers to plan ahead and work with their merchants allowing all in the supply chain to plan for seed volumes required, meet necessary regulatory controls and allow time for logistical timelines for delivery from Great Britain (GB) into Northern Ireland (NI).  

Farmers and merchants should be having these discussions now, as the weather and harvest dates in GB will dictate the ultimate start of the process for access to winter seeds. UFU, DAERA, Merchants and DEFRA continue to review the situation. 

Integrated Pest Management: Integrated pest management (IPM) is a sustainable approach to managing pests by combining biological, cultural, physical and chemical tools in a way that minimises economic, health and environmental risks. IPM emphasises the growth of a healthy crop with the least possible disruption to agricultural ecosystems and encourages natural pest control mechanisms.

UFU VI representative Bruce Steele encourages all to refer to the DAERA Integrated Pest Management Guide which will assist farmers with understanding the requirements of IPM. The link can be found on the DAERA website or the Voluntary Initiative website. 

The Voluntary Initiative Integrated Pest Management Plan (IPMP) can and should be completed by any farm or nursery enterprise using professional pesticides to produce crops, ornamentals, fodder or feed.

Developing sustainable arable and horticulture production in NI: UFU potato, vegetable, and cereal policy committees in partnership with UAS are currently progressing a review and the production of a visionary bespoke strategy for arable and horticulture (field vegetables) sectors. This work is progressing and over the next two weeks the UFU committees will review and discuss the direction of travel and recommendations within the report.   

Potato – COVID-19 support: UFU continue to lobby Minister Poots asking that he addresses the interpretation of the regulations addressing a trading historic relationship being transposed as a capping instrument for support. This instrument has not been implemented in any other support scheme rules and the UFU call on DAERA and the Minister to mindful of equality for all in the delivery process. UFU have reiterated the need at every opportunity when speaking with the Minister that an urgent need for a new support scheme for processing potatoes for the 2020 crop is evident. UFU understand many stores are sitting full of potatoes, and as yet the only advice the UFU can give growers is be prepared for a new scheme should the Minister respond to our request and keep documentary evidence of all potato movement and payments. UFU encourage all to keep weighbridge dockets, invoice details for all potatoes moved off farm and evidence of monies received being deposited into bank accounts.

UFU call on Minister Poots to confirm a new scheme will proceed and spell out without doubt the rules and regulations to ensure the processing potato sector will be protected. 

Arable and horticulture update

Friday, 6 November, 2020

Commodity watch by senior policy officer Patricia Erwin

Voluntary Initiative (VI) update

The Voluntary Initiative (VI) has been working on a new strategy over the last year. The strategy sets out the priorities for the VI from 2021 until 2025 and aims to promote an integrated pest management (IPM) based approach to crop health.  Delivery of the strategy will be spearheaded by the independent VI chairperson, a role funded by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), and VI sponsors working closely with Dr Neal Evans, the VI operations director. 

The term of the current Voluntary Initiative (VI) chairperson, Paul Temple, finished at the end of October 2020. As a result, the VI is seeking a new chairperson who will have responsibility for delivering its future strategy and lead the organisation as it adapts to meet all the current challenges facing responsible pesticide use and IPM. The VI sponsors would like to thank Paul Temple for his significant contribution to the VI over the past three years and wish him well for the future.

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) will continue its support for the Voluntary Initiative, and the timeliness of the need to appoint a new independent chairperson to promote the responsible use of pesticides through an IPM-based approach. The chair will champion the responsible use of pesticides and act as a brand ambassador for the Voluntary Initiative (VI). They will be expected to lead and develop VI strategy in conjunction with the VI Strategy Group and engage with Government Ministers, regulators and other stakeholders to promote the aims of the VI. Application details can be found here


COVID-19 support scheme for processing potatoes

The UFU met recently with Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) officials, for an update on the delivery of the coronavirus (COVID-19) support scheme for processing potatoes. UFU deputy president William Irvine, welcomed the opportunity to learn how DAERA were progressing the assessment of claims for financial loss. The UFU noted that the process was taking longer than envisaged but welcomed the indication and commitment that payments would be issued as soon as possible. It was noted that a stumbling block holding up delivery was the need for applicants to submit outstanding evidence. The UFU urge all to respond immediately to calls for additional data and information to verify their sales.

The first stage of this application process was online and the UFU urged all applicants to check their emails including their ‘junk’ box, for acknowledgement and subsequent requests for additional information. We understand that to-date some response to DAERA follow up emails have been disappointingly very slow, and this is impacting delivery.  


Brexit update

UFU deputy president William Irvine, has been calling on DAERA officials to brief our arable and horticulture representatives on deal or no deal impact implications and necessary compliance requirements from 1 January 2021.        

In particular our growers need information about availability of all seeds both arable and horticulture, plant protection products, fertiliser and tariffs under WTO to mention a few and the importance of securing third country equivalence which we understand the EU will not consider until the deal is completed. The UFU hold a high level of concern with many unaware of Brexit implications along that supply chain and disruption that may lie ahead. DAERA have now given a commitment to meet with the UFU and our members to discuss the new rules and regulations deal or no deal.

Arable and horticulture update

Friday, 14 August, 2020

Commodity watch by senior policy officer Patricia Erwin

Update on COVID-19 Potato Support Scheme

Funding of up to £1.6m is available to potato growers who specialise in supplying potatoes for processing to meet food service and hospitality industry needs. This funding will help offset losses caused by the closure of these market outlets and subsequent market disturbance during the COVID-19 pandemic

Subject to the legislative process, the support will be a payment per ton based on the loss in value of eligible potatoes during the period 17 March to 31 July 2020. Losses will be calculated as the difference between a reference price of £200/t, and sale price if sold at a loss, or a residual value of £30/t if still in store at 31 July 2020 and inspected by DAERA.

Potato growers that are eligible for the scheme will be invited to make an on-line claim for losses later this month. They will be required to provide evidence that they normally supplied the potato processing market in the past 3 years, during the period 17 March to end of July. Claims must be supported by evidence of sales (e.g. invoices) with associated proof of payment (e.g. bank statement) to demonstrate that a financial loss had been incurred.

DAERA will make growers aware when the scheme opens for applications through the agricultural press, DAERA website and social media channels.

Details of eligibility requirements and other information is available on the DAERA website at

COVID–19 financial support

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) have welcomed the coronavirus (COVID-19) financial support package for both processing potatoes and ornamental horticulture/cut flower producers. The full details for both schemes are expected shortly clearly setting out what documentary evidence will be required to secure financial support. 

Emergency Use application – UFU support NI potato industry

The Northern Ireland potato industry supported by UFU, have submitted an Emergency Use application with Chemical Regulation Division, Health and Safety Executive (CRD) for Diquat use in 2020.   

With the Northern Ireland salad potato crop reportedly lost, and others unaware of the challenges ahead the industry have presented a comprehensive emergency use application to CRD. Northern Ireland are not alone experiencing desiccation problems and it is understood that other countries have secured emergency use approval and that Republic of Ireland growers are also in discussions with Government seeking an emergency use.

In good faith with the agronomy tool kit and best technical guidance available, growers struggle to achieve crop growth control. Within Northern Ireland growing conditions, many crops are reaching marketable specification and size before crop senescence has begun. This is due mainly to a combination of our climatic conditions and soil type, hence impacting our ability to meet tight market specifications for the varieties grown here.   

A huge void limiting the technical guidance available is the impact of having no local research. One obvious omission in the trial research work completed and reported thus far in other locations of the UK is the understanding of the complexities of soils with high organic matter. Those high organic matter complexities coupled with our topography clearly challenge the research findings and best practice protocols. This knowledge gap clearly highlights and illustrates in our opinion the need for local research, and that in the interim until local controlled research findings are available an emergency use should be granted for 2020.


Access to labour and the new Home office Points based system continue to cause concern within horticulture. UFU are progressing discussions with DAERA and the Northern Ireland Office to help clarify and better understand the limitations and rules of engagement and employment legislation moving forward. 


Discussions are being progressed with DAERA officials regarding the intricate details of the Northern Ireland protocol for moving plants, plant-based products and all seeds (grass, arable and horticulture) from EU and in particular from Great Britain into Northern Ireland. The UFU are also seeking guidance from DAERA on current and pending pesticide regulations, asking for clarity on the regulations and protocols in a bid to ensure growers have continued access to all plant protection products in Northern Ireland post Brexit.   

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