Agri-Food Strategy Board holds final meeting

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The Agri-Food Strategy Board (AFSB), which ends its tenure on 31 August, has held its final meeting.

Speaking at the meeting, Noel Lavery, Permanent Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, said the AFSB had played an important role in promoting the industry.

He added: “As the Agri-Food Strategy Board comes to the end of its tenure, I would like to thank its Chair, Tony O’Neill and members for their hard work, commitment and enthusiasm. They have helped open significant new markets for our high-quality, safe and wholesome products.

“Working in partnership with the Board and wider industry we have made significant progress with 94% of agreed actions from the Going for Growth report either completed or on target for completion. Highlights include the opening of the knowledge transfer and capital elements of the Farm Business Improvement Scheme, the launch of both the Sustainable Agricultural Land Management Strategy and the Bovine TB Eradication Strategy.

“Over the last five years the industry has also led on a number of actions which will have significant long terms benefits for the sector including the roll out of the Food Fortress Scheme, and initial work on a genetic improvement programme for the livestock sectors.”

Department for the Economy Permanent Secretary, Andrew McCormick said AFSB was leaving the industry in a better position.

He added: “Thanks to the work and vision of the Board the industry is in a much stronger position today, and ready to face new challenges. It has progressed key recommendations from Going for Growth, including the establishment of the Agri-Food Quest Competence Centre, directly linking business and academia and the creation of an Agri-Food Loan Scheme.

“It has also been the imagination and strategic direction behind proposals to establish an Agri-Food Marketing Body for Northern Ireland. Department for the Economy will continue to work with DAERA, Invest NI and industry representatives to progress this work.”

The Agri-Food Strategy Board was established jointly in 2012 by the then Ministers for Agriculture and Rural Development and Enterprise, Trade and Investment to recommend longer term actions required to assist the sustainable development of the NI agri-food industry.

AFSB published its strategic action plan, Going for Growth in 2013. The Executive Response to Going for Growth, detailing agreed actions Government would take to address the Board’s recommendations, was published in 2014. Regular progress updates have been published both on the AFSB (http://www.agrifoodstrategyboard.org.uk) and DAERA (https://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/articles/going-growth-strategic-action-plan ) websites. A further formal progress report is expected in autumn 2017.