With protests and calls of boycotts against its members over the ongoing situation in Gaza, the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association said today (Thursday) it did not want to be dragged into the dispute.
Meanwhile, the Ulster Farmers’ Union also warned of the consequences of a blanket ban by Russia of all food imports from EU countries.
As solidarity vigils continue to be staged regularly across the Province, including last night in Armagh, NIIRTA Chief Executive said smaller retailers were now being targeted, in addition to the larger national retailers.
NIIRTA Chief Executive Glyn Roberts said: “It is disappointing that both pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian supporters have on social media and other media outlets called for protests and boycotts against independent retailers.
“Last week our members were being accused of being pro-Palestinian, this week they are now being accused of being pro-Israeli.
“It is unacceptable for local independent community retailers to be targeted in this way.
“Our members only want to run their shops and have no interest in being dragged into this dispute. We recognise that both sides are passionate in their support but urge them not to call for boycotts or protests against our members.
‘The reality is that NIIRTA members source as locally as possible, therefore stocking very little Israeli produce. In any case it is entirely a matter for the consumer on what they buy or do not buy.”
The Ulster Farmers’ Union, meanwhile, has voiced its concern over Russia’s decision to ban all food imports from EU countries.
UFU President Ian Marshall said: “Any barrier to trade is a cause for concern, especially as the Northern Ireland agri-food industry is predominately export driven.
“Russia’s decision demonstrates the volatility of the world export market, and it is likely that NI’s dairy industry will feel the effects of the decision first, but it will ultimately have implications for the entire agri-food industry.
“Of the milk and milk products we produce, almost 80% of them go to markets outside Northern Ireland and, while Russia only makes up a small percentage of this, the ban on food imports will have an impact on those who have had the initiative to break into the Russian market.
“At present, there are no Northern Ireland red meat, pork or poultry imports into Russia so those sectors will not be immediately impacted by the ban.
“Looking at the bigger picture, all 28 EU member states will be affected by Russia’s blanket ban on food imports.
“There are many that have built up a great reliance on the Russian market and with it closed they will be looking to find a new home for their products.
“This is potentially a much bigger issue for us as there will undoubtedly be increased competition in world export markets.
“It is disappointing that farmers and the wider agri-food industry have been drawn into this global dispute.
“However, ensuring Northern Ireland has a diverse portfolio of market opportunities to support a growing and expanding agri-food industry will help to cushion against similar situations in future and cement our place in world export markets.”