Long-term options for Northern Ireland’s RHI announced
A public consultation on long-term solutions for the non-domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) in Northern Ireland has opened.

A wide range of options for the long-term future of the RHI scheme have been put forward by the Department for the Economy (DfE) in a public consultation.

Legislation to cut RHI tariffs was approved by the NI Assembly in January 2017 after overspend from the scheme emerged. Reduced tariffs were initially introduced for one year until a longer-term solution was found, but this was extended for another 12 months in March 2018.

On the table are eight options which range from stopping RHI payments altogether, to reverting to the initial untiered and uncapped tariffs paid when the scheme was introduced in 2012.

Analysis carried out by consultancy firm Riccardo AEA for DfE indicates that the projected costs of these two options to the end of the scheme’s 20-year lifetime are zero and £1,040m, respectively.


Both compulsory and voluntary buy-outs of RHI contracts are mentioned, which would end the scheme early for all or some of the participants. Buy-outs would not have a significant cost for DfE as Riccardo analysis suggests that average installation in the scheme had more than covered its initial capital costs through tariff payments by February 2018 anyway.

The public consultation opened to responses on Thursday and runs for 12 weeks. Department officials are aiming to have the preferred long-term solution approved by the Department of Finance and European Commission in the first quarter of 2019.

After that, it is up to an Economy Minister to introduce the measures through legislation. In the absence of an executive at Stormont, it would be up to the NI Secretary of State in Westminster. The aim is to have long-term tariff rates in place by the time the extended temporary regulations expire at the end of March 2019.

Read more in next week’s Irish Farmers Journal and at www.farmersjournal.ie

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No-deal Brexit would put NI livestock sector in ‘serious jeopardy’
Farm leaders from the UFU, NFU Wales and NFU Scotland have expressed serious concerns about the impact of a no-deal Brexit.

A no-deal outcome from Brexit would put Northern Ireland’s livestock sector in serious jeopardy, the Ulster Farmers’ Union beef and lamb chair, Sam Chesney, has said.

“We recognise that negotiating the UK’s exit from the EU is no easy task, however, March 2019 is fast approaching. The government must ensure that there are measures in place to allow tariff-free and frictionless access to export markets in the EU.

“This is vital to the survival of the livestock sector in Northern Ireland. A no-deal outcome is very risky – we would face up to 60% tariffs on exports and it could result in unfair competition in the UK market from lower-standard meat imported from outside of Europe. It would put the livestock sector in serious jeopardy,” Chesney said.

Livestock representatives from the UFU, NFU Scotland and NFU Cymru say the prospect of the UK leaving the EU next March with no trade deal in place is worrying, and would have serious implications for the UK’s beef and sheep sectors.

Welsh view

Wyn Evans, an upland farmer from mid-Wales and chair of the NFU Cymru livestock board, said: “Sheep production is critical to the rural economy of Wales and brings with it clear environmental benefits.

“The government in its future trade talks with the EU must ensure that we have measures in place that continue to allow tariff-free and unfettered access to export markets in Europe. This is vital to maintaining the already tight margins in this sector.

“We are extremely concerned about the potential devastating consequences a no-deal scenario and associated trade export tariffs could bring on the sector,” he said.

Evans also said that the whole of the rural economy would be affected, and the knock-on effect lower production levels would have on the landscape and our environment.

“A critical level of supply of high-quality, PGI-status Welsh lamb is essential to keep a viable processing sector in Wales.”


Also commenting on a no-deal Brexit was NFU Scotland livestock committee vice-chair Jimmy Ireland, who said: “A no-deal Brexit could have unthinkable consequences on Scottish farms and crofts. The UK currently exports more than £380m-worth of lamb and sheepmeat, with the vast majority being exported to European markets.

“Any imposition of barriers to trade as a result of Brexit will impact thousands of sheep and cattle farming businesses across Scotland and the UK.

“We also need to see the UK government secure future protection of our food names, such as Scotch Beef PGI and Scotch Lamb PGI. These names are synonymous with quality and we need to see them protected from imitation, both in the United Kingdom and the European Union.

“Future support for the food and farming sector must deliver on-farm profitability that ensures there is a critical mass of cattle and sheep to drive productivity across the supply chain.”

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Breeding hoggets sell to £205 at Ballymena
The average price paid for Mule and Greyface hoggets was the same as last year’s average at Ballymena Mart on Saturday.

The annual show and sale of Mule and Greyface hoggets at Ballymena Mart on Saturday saw the average price paid for hoggets unchanged from the same sale in 2017.

A total of 2,262 breeding hoggets sold for an average price of £151, with the sale recording a 98% clearance rate.

A strong show of Mule hoggets met a steady trade, with the best-quality lots selling for £180 and over. There was a demand for plainer types too, with most lots making over the £130 mark.

“Averages have held up well across breeding sheep sales so far this season. The good demand for hoggets should be reflected in the ewe lamb trade when sales begin this weekend,” said auctioneer Graham Loughery.

Topping the sale at £205 was a pen of suckled Mules from the flock of William Crawford, Newtonstewart. The sale-topping pen was placed second in the Mule show beforehand by judge Alwyn McFarland.

First prize in the Mule show went to Patrick Donnelly from Rathkenny for a pen of hoggets that later sold for £190.

Victor Anderson from Cloughmills received £200 for his third-prizewinning pen of Mules. The same price was paid to Diane Gibson from Newtownabbey for her best-selling pen of Mules.

Gibson’s 16-pen lineup included some of the top prices on the day, such as £198 and £190.

Steven Wilson from Ballymena also received £190 for his first pen of Mule hoggets.

There was a small show of Greyface hoggets on Saturday, with Desi Gray from Limavady receiving first prize and £152 for his top pen of Greyface.

Ian McCluggage from Glarryford was paid £150 for two pens of Greyface hoggets.

In the far ring, Suffolk Cheviot ewe lambs averaged £104, representing a £10 drop on last year’s average. Top-quality ewe lambs met a strong trade from buyers, but plainer types were harder to clear on the day.

Topping the ewe lamb sale was Robert Workman from Kilwaughter with a pen of Suffolk Cheviots that sold for £155.

This pen was placed second in the pre-sale show, with Sandra Hunter from Bushmills receiving first prize and £152 for her top pen of ewe lambs.

Third prize in the Suffolk Cheviot ewe lamb show went to R Thompson from Glenarm for a pen that made £144 in the sales ring.

In pictures: Suffolk Cheviot hoggets sell for £325 at Ballymena
Peter McCann outlines the top prices from the Suffolk Cheviot and continental cross hogget sale held at Ballymena Mart on Saturday.

Ballymena Mart’s first major breeding sheep sale of the year was held on Saturday and was topped at £325 for a pen of Suffolk Cheviot hoggets.

James Alexander received the highest price paid at the annual Suffolk Cheviot and Contiental Cross hogget sale for his first of 21 pens. The Randalstown man had a strong sale with the hammer dropping at £200 for three pens of his Suffolk Cheviots.

Morris Breen from Tempo had a good sale of mostly sucked Suffolk Cheviot hoggets, with top prices including £228, £220 and £195. In the show before the sale, Breen won second prize for a pen of hoggets that later sold for £182.

Morris Breen from Tempo had the second prize winning pen which sold for £182.

The first place prize in the show went to Desmond and David Knox from Kesh for a dozen hoggets that sold for £212 in the sale.

Diane Gibson from Newtonabbey's first pen sold for £195.

William Blackburn from Clogher won third prize and received £200 in the sales ring for this pen.

William Blackburn from Clogher's top pen came third in the pre-sale show and sold for £200

Diane Gibson from Newtonabbey received £195 and £200 for the first and second pens in her 14-pen lineup.

Diane Gibson from Newtonabbey's first pen sold for £195.

Other top prices on the day included £188 for Tim Martin from Ballynhinch’s top pen of Suffolk Cheviot hoggets and £180 for Patrick Donnelly from Rathkenny’s first pen.

Patrick Donnelly from Rathkenny's first pen sold for £180.

Read more from Saturday’s sale, including the annual sale of Contiental Cross ewe lambs, in next week’s NI edition of the Irish Farmers Journal.

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Steady cattle trade at Swatragh Mart