The challenges of the Ukraine crisis and the suspension of P&O ferry crossings were discussed during a meeting with UK agriculture ministers.
The pressing issues facing the agri-food sector were highlighted at a meeting of the Inter-Ministerial Group for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (IMG EFRA).
Attending were Defra Secretary George Eustice, Defra Agriculture Minister Victoria Prentis, Scottish Agriculture Minister Mairi Gougeon, Welsh Minister Lesley Griffiths and Edwin Poots, Minister for Northern Ireland.
The meeting heard that the crisis in Ukraine is having an impact on the UK, as food and agricultural businesses struggle to cope with escalating costs for grain, energy and fertilizers in particular.
Ministers agreed that industry needed to be better prepared for further disruptions to supply chains following a protracted conflict in Ukraine.
During the talks, Minister Poots said the UK and the devolved government “must act quickly” to ensure the UK’s ability to produce food is maintained.
‘That’s why I’ve asked George Eustice to urgently consider a range of measures, including financial aid to UK farmers to support them through the crisis,’ he said.
“I have also requested that our local Agribusiness Forum meetings be held weekly so that we have up-to-date information direct from the sector.”
The meeting also heard that the UK was facing challenges following the suspension of P&O ferry crossings.
This is particularly true for Northern Ireland, due to its geographical dependence on the supply of essential goods carried on GB-NI ferries across the Irish Sea.
As well as passenger transport, P&O Ferries is responsible for most overseas animal and freight movement between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
The ferry company is also the largest shipper of breeding sheep from Britain to mainland Europe.
But the company warned there would be no future for the business without a significant change in the way it operates.
Mr Poots said a disruption to these crucial import and export supply lines could potentially cause short-term disruption to businesses and ultimately consumers.
“I have asked for food to be given priority on all crossings to Northern Ireland to ensure food continues to arrive on the shelves,” he said.
“My officials are working urgently across government and stakeholders including the Port of Belfast, the British Retail Consortium and the ferry companies to identify issues and mitigations that will offer support in addressing this issue. “