T4. Ms S Bradley asked the for Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, while resisting the temptation to draw him on his comments about asking the constitutional question, to join her in congratulating Dale Farm on winning a significant contract with the Danish firm Arla for the delivery of whey protein and to state whether he accepts that that contract would not have been achievable without the protocol. (AQT 1454/17-22)
Thank you, Minister. I note how swift and short on detail your answer was.
"The protocol has strong support within the agri-food sector in Northern Ireland, simply because we recognise that, without it, we would be in great trouble."
Does the Minister refuse to recognise that the protocol is the key economic driver for the agri-food sector in Northern Ireland?
I absolutely refuse. What Dr Johnson did not point out was that the beneficial impact that he identified for the dairy industry does not apply to the beef, chicken or pork industries. For example, Foyle Food Group in Dungannon and other companies in Northern Ireland import tens of millions of pounds of beef from Great Britain for further processing here that then goes back to Great Britain. That is impacted on as a consequence of the protocol. The same applies to chicken and pork. Those are important elements of ensuring the viability of the beef, chicken and pork industries.
If you want to grab on to one element where the protocol has been beneficial, that is absolutely fine, but why ignore the many thousands of companies that import plants for sale in our nurseries; that import the trees that we plant in Northern Ireland to ensure that we protect our environment; or that import hedges? I cannot buy a hedge from Lancashire, but I can buy one from Latvia. I am sorry, but the product that is growing and was bred in a similar environment is the product that is best placed to suit Northern Ireland. Our farmers who were previously selling their bulls in England cannot sell them any more, because, if they take them there, they have to stay there for six months. There is no reason for it. Farmers who bought sheep were left stranded in Scotland, which caused them huge problems. Of course, the fishermen have their problems as well. The problems are so extensive, and, if the Member wants detail, she will get an overload of it very quickly.