COVID-19 status to attend Balmoral

Anyone who wants to attend the 152nd RUAS Balmoral Show in association with the Ulster Bank will have to demonstrate their COVID-19 status on entry.

Those going to the show will either have to be fully vaccinated, have proof of a NHS lateral flow test within the previous 48 hours or proof of natural COVID antibodies based on a positive PCR test within 180 days of the event.

Taking place between Wednesday 22 September and Saturday 25 September 2021, tickets for the event can only be purchased online, and according to the RUAS they are “selling fast”.

The tickets are day specific, and priced at £20 for adults, £16 for over 65s, £13 for those aged 12 to 18 and £3 for children aged 5 to 11.

Agri-food business turnover hits £5.4bn

Turnover in the NI food and drinks processing sector was up 3.7% in 2019 to a new record high of £5.4bn, the latest data published by DAERA shows.

Beef and sheepmeat processing remains the largest sector, with turnover at £1.39bn, followed by milk at £1.23bn. Combined they account for just under 50% of total agri-food output. Poultry meat is third on £772m.

The overall agri-food sector employs approximately 25,000 people, and accounts for nearly one-third of all manufacturing jobs in NI.

In terms of sales, Britain remains the key market outlet, taking nearly 50% of NI sales. The home market is next at 23%, with the Republic of Ireland at 16%. That leaves the rest of the EU at 7.6% and the rest of the world at 5.8%.

In beef and sheep processing, Britain accounts for 68% of sales, but in dairy it is only 38%.

New phase of EFS wider to open

A new tranche of the Environmental Farming Scheme (EFS) wider level will open for applications on 16 August, with the application window running for four weeks.

EFS wider level applies to land which is not environmentally designated. Agreements for the fifth tranche will start from 1 January 2022 and most measures will need to be completed within the first year.

The option for “hedge laying with two protective fences” will not be available in the fifth tranche. This measure involved cutting an existing hedge to encourage regrowth, but there were reports of a high rejection rate for the work following inspections in previous tranches.

However, planting new hedgerows with two protective fences will still be available in the new tranche.

The capital item “drinking trough pipework” has also been removed, although drinking troughs and drinking trough bases will still be available under certain EFS options.

Cost of rural crime drops by 37% in NI

The total cost of rural crime in NI totalled £2.1m during 2020, representing a 37% drop on the year previous, according to new figures from NFU Mutual.

The insurance firm calculate that across the UK as a whole, rural crime cost £43.3m last year, down 20% on 2019 levels.

Movement restrictions due to coronavirus lockdowns is the main reason given for the lower figures, although incidents of other crimes, such as fly tipping and livestock worrying, increased due to the pandemic.

The annual report notes that the theft of GPS systems for tractors rose last year, with the total cost across the UK almost doubling to £2.9m.

Potato and pig COVID-19 schemes open

Support schemes for pig producers and potato growers that were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic are open for applications.

DAERA’s cull sow scheme has a budget of £2m and allows a payment of £73 per sow to pig producers who exported sows for direct slaughter between 1 May 2020 and 31 March 2021.

The new £2m scheme for potato growers will allow £127 per tonne for potatoes that were grown during the 2020 season for processing but were unable to be sold as normal due to the pandemic.

Eligible applicants for both schemes have already been written to by DAERA. Applications for the pig scheme close on 12 August 2021 and the potato scheme shuts on 18 August 2021.