22 October 1999

Eire an example

on the bureaucracy front

RUNNING a farm that straddles the Irish border has enabled one Derry-based producer to compare the red tape and costs facing British businesses to those faced by other EU member states.

John Gilliland of Brook Hall Estate, Londonderry, decided to expand into the Republic in order to spread his fixed costs.

Farming land in Northern Ireland and the Republic now means he has to fill in two IACS forms each year. But he knows which set of forms he prefers.

Each year he is sent forms from both agricultural ministries but there is no doubt in his mind that the Irish ones are both shorter and easier to complete.

Fairest system

"The Republic of Ireland has introduced the fairest system I have seen. The red tape is insignificant," he says.

Forms are based around a set of maps produced by the department which makes the whole process much simpler, he insists.

"It shows that red tape can be reduced. And where theres a will theres a way."

Mr Gilliland admits that farming the land in the Republic has given him a number of other benefits and that by buying his sprays south of the border he has been able to make savings of up to 40%.

Fuel, too, is considerably cheaper with white diesel costing about 25p a litre less in the Republic. That difference is large enough to have forced closure on just about every petrol station within 20 miles of the border in Northern Ireland, estimates Mr Gilliland.

But he admits the option of shopping across the border without exposing himself to monetary exchange rate risks is not an option available to everybody.

"I am paid in euros so have the flexibility of paying people in euros. It opens up new potential," he says.

The negative impact of farming in such close proximity to a "Euroland" country should not be underestimated with farmers able to borrow money at much lower interest rates. And the government should recognise just how devastating the effect of the strength of sterling is on the industry, he says.

"All we are doing at the moment is giving away our right to produce food to all the cheap food producers in the world," he says.