Food industry strong but under pressure

Brexit is a key issue facing agri-food
Brexit is a key issue facing agri-food

The Northern Ireland food and drink sector remains strong but faces continuing challenges as it aims to improve its standing in global markets it has been claimed.

The warning comes from Charlie Kerlin, head of agri food at business advisory firm Grant Thornton as government figures showed a slight drop in production in 2016.

Provisional estimates from the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) put its value at £4.423 billion, down by £1.4m on the year before.

“The statistics show the continuing strength and importance of the food and drink processing sector to the Northern Ireland economy,” said Mr Kerlin.

“The sector will continue to have to deal with challenges as it tries to grow. 2017 has seen significant deal activity in the local market which may also impact the level of food processing undertaken in our local market in the future.

“Clearly, sales in any one year can be greatly impacted by currency fluctuations and the finalised figures for 2016 will be impacted be affected by the fall in the value of sterling.”

Employment increased by 2.3% to 22,000 people and the industry as a whole is worth in excess of £3.5bn.