13August2022

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Exciting Times Ahead for Northern Ireland s Agri-Food Industry

During her address to an audience of industry leaders, Arlene Foster acknowledged the challenges faced by farmers who had experienced extremely difficult circumstances in recent years and in particular the adverse weather conditions. Emphasising the fact that the agri-food sector offers outstanding potential for growing the local economy, the Minister said: “Building on our existing strengths and capabilities, significant opportunities exist for the Northern Ireland agri-food industry, in both export and domestic markets.

“The crucial challenge for everyone is how we unlock the full potential of the sector and build on the industry’s success to date. Not many industries have continued to grow despite the recession however the agri-food industry has. With annual sales currently standing at £4.4 billion, it is our largest manufacturing sector.”

Welcoming the publication of the the Agri-Food Strategy Board’s Strategic Action Plan ‘Going for Growth – Investing in Success’, Arlene Foster added: “The Board’s Strategic Action Plan contains recommendations, for both Government and industry, and targets which are challenging and refreshingly ambitious. I would not have expected anything less from an industry with a proven track record for growth.

“The Board anticipates that implementation of the Strategic Action Plan could see a 15% increase in employment by 2020, including 5,000 in processing and a further 10,000 across the supply chain. The importance of these jobs cannot be underestimated, especially as they would be spread across towns, villages and rural communities across Northern Ireland.

“I am particularly encouraged by the focus in the Strategic Action Plan on growth through export market-led innovation. This is very much in line with the longstanding approach of my Department, and I also share the Board’s conviction that the growing demand from consumers worldwide for food and drink offers enormous growth potential.”

Highlighting the fact that in order to unlock that growth potential there is a need to remove as many barriers to growth as possible, Arlene Foster continued: “One of the most pressing areas we need to address is the issue of access to finance. This is a significant problem for primary producers and also for processors.

“While a growing global population offers enormous potential, the difficulty in accessing finance is being compounded by additional challenges such as falling farm incomes, bad weather and rising commodity prices.

“Along with my Executive colleagues, I will be looking at how we can work with local banks to help provide the necessary finance required by the agri-food industry. I would encourage the banks to do all they can to help improve access to finance not just for the agri-food industry but for all our local businesses.”

Source: Northern Ireland Executive - Exciting Times Ahead for Northern Ireland s Agri-Food Industry