NORTHERN IRISH farm minister Edwin Poots has hailed the recent Royal Ulster Winter Fair as an 'excellent opportunity' for local producers to showcase all that is good about the agri-food sector in Northern Ireland.

Speaking at the 35th Winter Fair, held at Lisburn’s Eikon Exhibition Centre, Mr Poots said the dairy sector was one of the province's most important agricultural sectors.

“Winter Fair is a firm favourite in the agricultural calendar, as well as my own, and has a great reputation for attracting some of the best pedigree dairy stock for its championship competitions," he said.

“There are animal sales, trade stands and exhibitions, including many from my own department, but I believe one of the most important aspects of Winter Fair is the opportunities it offers farmers to chat over the challenges they are facing within the industry. It is also a great day out for visitors, young and old.

“Our agri-food sector is crucial to both the farming community and everyone in Northern Ireland. In 2021 the total gross output of our agriculture sector was £2.23 billion with dairy the largest contributor with an output value of £667 million. They produced 2.4 billion litres of milk.

“Dairy farmers have faced an extremely challenging couple of years with variable milk prices and increasing production costs. And whilst it is encouraging to see farm gate prices for milk increasing we must continue to work with the industry to support their businesses and develop greater confidence in a sustainable future for both this and future generations," he said.