Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots has told the UK Agriculture Partnership (UKAP) that we must act now and we must do it together to tackle the threats to food security.
Speaking in Dundee, he told delegates which included Cabinet Ministers, the devolved administrations and experts from farming organisations, academia, agri- food industry and government officials, that there was still time to make a difference.
"At the meeting we heard about the challenges that face food security across the UK and the possible solutions to them. UKAP not only brings together different expert voices but allows us to draw on their experience and gives us the chance to explore the solutions and the confidence to take bigger risks to tackle the issue," said Minister Poots.
"I am incredibly concerned about the developments within Ukraine as a result of the Russian invasion, both of whom have crucial roles in global agri-food markets. The longer the conflict continues, the more likely we are to see a real and damaging impact on our local industries.
"We need to be as prepared as we can be for further disruptions to our supply chains as a result of a prolonged conflict which is impacting on not just Northern Ireland or GB but the wider global supply chain and our ability to recover from the pandemic. So it fundamental that we build strong, reliable partnerships along the supply chain to provide protection and confidence for producers and consumers.
"The NI agri-food sector has already undergone a period of severe disruption as a result of the Covid pandemic and the unworkable complexities of the Northern Ireland Protocol. Alongside reductions in labour supply, rising input costs, supply chain disruption and concerns about inflation they are all combining to create a 'perfect storm'."
He told delegates that key areas of concern relate to the cost and availability of feed, fertiliser, fuel and seasonal labour. There is no doubt that rising costs of these inputs, including energy will lead to increase in food prices which everyone needed to prepare for.
"It is my aim to protect Northern Ireland's food supplies, making sure that everyone can access safe quality food at prices we can afford. DAERA is committed to developing and implementing processes to address issues affecting the supply of food, including a long term solution for food movements to Northern Ireland.
"Our agri-food industry faces the same global issues as other devolved nations and any other country. We all have the opportunity to provide innovative solutions which will deliver food security and a sustainable agri-food sector.
"There is still time to make a difference, but we must act now and we must do it together," Minister Poots added.
The Rt Hon George Eustice MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands, Mairi Gougeon MSP also attended the meeting and heard discussion of the overarching challenge and possible risk to food security and some of the solutions.
This included anticipating the next crisis, tackling big risks and measures to meet longer term objectives. Panellists also examined the impact of climate change, the biggest long term threat to UK food security.