The leadership of the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has said that it is against any move to trigger Article 16 of the NI Protocol.

Against a backdrop of gaps appearing on supermarket shelves due to new trade friction from 1 January 2021, Unionist politicians in NI have been calling for the article to be triggered to allow goods to again flow freely from Britain to NI.

“The prime minister responded to that yesterday by rightly pointing out that at this stage they are only teething problems,” UFU chief executive Wesley Aston told reporters on Thursday.

Under Article 16 of the withdrawal agreement, either the EU or UK government can act where the application of the NI Protocol is leading to "economic, societal or environmental difficulties", but Aston maintained such a move was not necessary.

“Structures are there to address those issues and we want to go through that process first of all before we actually say ‘this is an absolute disaster’ and ‘we have to invoke article 16’,” he said.

'Major crisis'

Earlier on Thursday, Agriculture Minister and DUP politician Edwin Poots said that NI was facing “a major crisis” over food supplies due to the NI protocol.

“That is an outrageous situation that we in NI have been put in as a result of the protocol negotiated between the UK government and the European Union,” he said in an interview on BBC Radio Ulster.

In a briefing with journalists, UFU president Victor Chestnutt said that although some products might occasionally be missing on supermarket shelves, there would be no shortage of food in NI.

“We will never go hungry in NI. We might not have the choice, but we will never go hungry,” he said.