Ensuring Northern Ireland's dairy processors and farmers are meeting their environmental responsibilities has been outlined as a key challenge for the industry by an industry expert.
Dr Mike Johnston, who will take the helm of the Northern Ireland arm of industry association Dairy UK from next week, said that he aimed to make the environment an utmost priority among its members. He added that dairy safety and product innovation would also be other areas for further focus during his tenure.
The claims come as processors and industry associations across the globe are being put under regulatory and economic pressure to look to more environmentally sustainable production methods, both at processing and agricultural level.
Johnston, who will be succeeding Paul Archer, said that while Northern Ireland's dairy manufacturers are already committed to the challenge of stepping up their environmental sustainability, more work and assistance are required.
"As with many areas of public policy, the cost of compliance and the burden of red tape is a major concern," he stated. "We need both clear guidelines and uniformity in their application across the UK, at the minute we have neither."
The appointment of Johnson, who is also the head of the Dairy Council of Northern Ireland, is expected to allow for some amount of consolidation in dealing with industry wide affairs in the country, according to Dairy UK.
"Although both organisations will continue to operate separately, this joint servicing initiative represents a small, but important rationalisation within the Northern Ireland dairy industry," Johnson stated.
In addressing the wider needs of the country's dairy producers, he added that the association would also continue to work with local food safety authorities in order to keep the country's cattle free of Bluetongue.
Dairy UK's attempts to target more environmentally friendly production methods comes as a number of major cooperatives like Arla Foods and Fonterra pledge to target reductions in their environmental impacts.
Just last month, a meeting of a standing committee of the International Dairy Federation (IDF) outlined environmental sustainability as a key challenge for future growth.
Christian Robert, director general of the IDF, which represents stakeholders throughout the global dairy industry, told DairyReporter.com that its experts were increasingly looking for new solutions to reduce the impact of dairy on the ecosystem.
"We decided in January that we would move to intensify our efforts towards increasing environmental sustainability for the whole industry," he said.
Robert said that the committee was not just looking at improvements in processing, with agricultural issues like fresh water and effluent treatment also proving to be a vital area of the focus.