Wednesday 23 August 2017 10:26:24 PM

O’Neill Urges Agri-food Industry to Grasp Opportunities for Growth
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AGRICULTURE Minister Michelle O’Neill has said any growth for the food sector in the north must be founded on a strong, profitable supply base, where farmers are rewarded by processors and retailers for the quality raw materials they produce.

dn_screenThe Minister’s comments follow publication of the Agri-Food Strategy Board report which includes more than 100 recommendations aimed at accelerating the growth of farming, fishing and food and drink processing to 2020 and beyond.

Speaking at the DARD Breakfast hosted annually at the Balmoral Show, the Minister said: “The Agri Food report ‘Going for Growth, Investing in Success’, outlines a detailed and compelling roadmap for growth of the agri-food sector. I welcome the Board’s recognition that we need a sustainable farming industry in the north and that agri-food is a single supply chain, with each partner treated fairly and working towards the same goal to meet the needs of the marketplace.

“Going for Growth” sets challenging targets that reflect the industry’s ambition for increased sales, especially outside the north of Ireland, as well as job creation and overall contribution to our future prosperity. The key is of course, to grasp the opportunities presented.

“The food and drinks processing industry has already demonstrated its capacity to grow over the past decade, despite some very significant challenges and I believe the agri-food sector is poised to take advantage of the additional demand that is evident. Finding new markets and creating innovative products will be crucial to further expansion in exports, to help grow the local economy and to create additional jobs both within the agri-food sector itself and beyond.”

During a keynote speech at the annual breakfast, Minister O’Neill said the Balmoral Show was one of Ireland’s biggest agricultural and food events.

“This year’s relocation of the Show will provide a significant boost to the north’s vitally important agri-food sector, providing a world-class platform to showcase the excellence of our local industry.”

Highlighting DARD’s exhibition, the Minister added: “Balmoral Show has always represented a shop window for the agri-food sectors, the centre-piece event of the local farming calendar, and the move to Balmoral Park will herald the beginning of a new era. The Department’s display offers farmers and rural dwellers the opportunity to tap into the expertise that will be on hand to provide guidance on a range of agri-food and rural matters.

“This year we will be displaying a wide range of services and information on my Department’s work, including DARD Direct, education and training opportunities, technology and business development services, environmental, animal health and welfare issues, and diversification. I would encourage everyone with an interest in farming and rural development to visit our exhibition and chat to our experts.”

NIIRTA Welcomes ‘Going for Growth’ Report

The Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA) has welcomed the ‘Going For Growth’ report published by the Agri-Food Board this morning and pledged its support to achieve its recommendations.

NIIRTA Chief Executive Glyn Roberts said“NIIRTA welcomes this very comprehensive report and given the majority of our members are food retailers we want to work in partnership with the Agri-Food board to achieve an effective supply chain which can support their ambitious growth targets in sales and employment.

“We need a more effective partnership of retailers, processors, suppliers and farmers to implement the key targets outlined in the report and NIIRTA is committed to playing a constructive role in that process.”