Developing agritourism industry will help rural economy recover from pandemic, says Blair

Helping a local agritourism industry develop and grow will help the rural economy recover from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, Alliance Agriculture spokesperson John Blair MLA has said.

Agritourism involves structured farm stays, experiences and visits and is an addition to selling produce, holding educational visits and other forms of entertainment. South Antrim MLA Mr Blair said Northern Ireland could follow the example of other regions in promoting it as an attractive option for holidaymakers post-coronavirus, when more people are likely to participate in ‘staycations’.

“Like many industries, the agricultural sector has been badly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and it will be a long road for it to recover,” he said.

“Therefore many farmers will need to diversify their income as we move forward, while becoming less reliant on outside factors beyond their control such as market prices and Government subsidies. In other parts of the UK and Ireland, activities such as farm visits are a well-established part of the agricultural economy. It’s time we did the same here.

“Agritourism is a growth industry across the world and would be a major benefit to farmers in Northern Ireland trying to recover from the damage the coronavirus crisis has caused. The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs needs to explore how we can expand and promote it here as a viable part of any economic recovery plan. I have raised this matter with the Depatment and look forward to hearing the response.”