DAERA offices re-open to the public

DAERA direct offices will re-open to the public on an appointment-only basis from Monday 7 June.

“The arrangements are targeted at those customers who require face-to-face assistance with complex transactions,” said Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots.

DAERA offices closed to the public during the first coronavirus lockdown in March 2020.

The department states that all visits to offices will be by appointment only for “the immediate future” and routine business should still be conducted online, over the phone or by delivering documents to the post box at DAERA offices.

Appointments to visit local offices can be booked by calling 0300 200 7840.

Organic area rises by 5% in NI

The total area of farmland in NI which fully certified as organic increased by 5% last year, according to the latest statistics from the UK government.

There were 8,000 hectares (ha) of organically farmed land in NI during 2020, up from 7,600ha the year previous. It represents the largest total organic area in NI since 2015, but it is less than the peak of 10,400ha which was seen in 2010.

Organic farms equate to 0.8% of the total farmland area in NI. This remains well below other UK regions, with Wales on 4.9%, England on 3.3% and 1.7% of Scottish farmland certified as organic.

There were 162 organic farmers in NI during 2020, which is up marginally from the 161 producers recorded the year before. Many of these producers are involved in mixed farming as the official figures show that 135 producers grew crops and 99 were involved in livestock production.

Positive price moves at Dutch auction

European dairy markets continue to perform strongly with further gains made at the first Dutch Dairy Board auction for June.

Butter increased by €30/t to €4,150/t, making it the fourth consecutive price increase. Butter prices are at their highest levels since February 2019.

Skim milk powder (SMP) held steady at €2,630/t with whole milk powder (WMP) remaining at €3,210/t.


However, the first GDT auction for June resulted in a 0.9% drop in the index price to US $4,128. Despite this, the index price is still holding at levels last seen back in spring 2014.

While butter fell by 5.4%, there was a 0.5% increase in the value of cheddar. SMP and WMP fell by 0.5%.

Meanwhile, the latest global outlook report from Dutch banking giant Rabobank points to a continuation of the current period of positive milk prices in 2021.

It predicts that buying demand from China will account for 40% of New Zealand dairy exports this year, which will ultimately underpin European markets.

Looking further ahead to 2022, Rabobank expects commodity prices to remain strong despite a potential 6% increase in global supplies.

New rapid phosphate test for soils

A new test for phosphate levels in soils which delivers results within 20 minutes is being developed by scientists at Rothamsted Research in England.

The test kit, which was produced by Cornwall-based firm Vital Spark Creative, can be used under field conditions.

“You put a small soil sample into the bottle and mix it with an extraction solution before passing it through a filter,” said the firm’s director Chris Booker.

“You then add various chemicals to get the final result, which is analysed in a colorimeter so the result is easy to read,” he added.