A Northern Irish grower has won a prestigious award for outstanding agricultural achievement.
Thomas Gilpin of Gilfresh Produce was presented with the Belfast Telegraph Cup at the Ulster Farmers’ Union’s (UFU) annual dinner last week.
In handing Gilpin his award, UFU president Ivor Ferguson said: “Thomas Gilpin is the founder of Gilfresh Produce, whose wealth of experience and innovative ideas have helped put Northern Ireland on the map as a major vegetable-growing region. Through Thomas’ dedication and commitment his vegetable-growing and processing enterprise has grown from a mere 4.5 acre field in 1965 to a multimillion operation with an annual turnover of approximately £18 million.
“Providing employment for 130 people at the company’s processing site located at Loughgall in Co Armagh, Thomas has been instrumental in securing contracts with multinational retailers such as Tesco and Lidl, helping put Northern Ireland vegetable produce on the shelves of supermarkets across the world.”
During the evening Ferguson also fired a broadside at politicians both in Belfast and London, who he said were holding back farmers in Northern Ireland. “We have heard the excuses but it is time Northern Ireland had a functioning devolved government again,” he said. “Farming and food play a large part in the Northern Ireland economy and civil servants are making their own rules to the detriment of the farming industry.
“It is [also] concerning to hear some MPs at Westminster, mostly staunch Brexiteers, pushing to open the UK market to cheaper, lower-standard food imports. UK food prices are the third lowest in the world, and yet consumers enjoy some of the highest environmental and animal welfare standards. Opening up our home market to cheaper imports would have serious consequences for farmers and their businesses in Northern Ireland. Retailers have faith in the food we produce and more importantly, so do consumers. Our politicians would do well to follow their lead.”