She said the event, now in its 85th year, was also the perfect opportunity for small rural businesses and the agri-food industry to explore and develop new market opportunities.
“With some 280,000 visitors, the Ploughing Championships offers a great opening for Northern Ireland companies to promote their produce and whet the appetite of processors, the food service, retailers and the general public to buy local produce and support our agri-food sector.” Miss McIlveen explained.
“Our food has world leading traceability and safety controls and it is produced on farms with a strong track record in quality assurance systems and high animal health and welfare standards. It is very pleasing to see so many Northern Ireland companies exhibiting here and to be able to work with the industry to help them inspire many people to visit us and see we are a truly great place to visit, stay, explore, taste and enjoy.”
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During the three-day ploughing championships, one of the largest agricultural events in Europe, the Minister also met with the Republic’s agriculture minister, Michael Creed TD and hosted a reception for Northern Ireland companies exhibiting at the show.
Miss McIlveen told guests at the reception that the economic success of the industry was linked to developing the knowledge and skills of the agri-food sector and hailed CAFRE as having a central role in providing suitably qualified people with the right skills to ensure the continued success of the industry.
“I’m delighted to see CAFRE showcasing their food courses and state of the art facilities which are available to both students and the industry to encourage creativity and innovative thinking.” the Agriculture Minister added before wishing Northern Ireland ploughmen every success in the ploughing competitions.