A new industry-led agri-food marketing body for Northern Ireland is to be established in a bid to underpin and steer growth in a sector vital to the province Enterprise Minister Arlene has claimed.
Stressing the huge importance of the sector to the overall economy, Mrs Foster said the new body would put the province on a competitive footing alongside other UK regions.
“If we are to continue to grow the sector we must ensure that our excellent agri-food offering is marketed to best effect, both at home and in markets outside Northern Ireland,” said Mrs Foster.
“This was one of the key issues identified by the Agri-Food Strategy Board (AFSB) in Going for Growth, the Board’s strategic plan for the agri-food industry in Northern Ireland.
“The establishment of a new industry-led agri-food marketing body, which would be similar to the already successful Scotland Food and Drink, will provide a significant and exciting opportunity for the Northern Ireland agri-food industry to work together for the benefit of the entire sector.
With a proven track record for growth and with turnover increasing by 6.7 per cent last year to £4.5 billion she said the sector accounts for around a quarter of manufacturing industry sales and external sales.
“In terms of employment, agri-food supports almost 100,000 jobs when we include farming, fishing, retail and distribution.
The establishment of the new body would play an important part in further promoting and growing the sector she said.
“I am pleased to announce that the AFSB has undertaken to develop the proposal for a new industry-led body.
“It will be essential that they secure the buy-in of all stakeholders, both Government and industry, and I would encourage everyone involved in the wider agri-food sector to support the Board as it begins this important work.”
Welcoming the announcement UFU President Ian Marshall said: “Effective marketing of our world class agri-food industry on a local, national and international scale is vitally important to seeing the sustainable growth plans laid out in ‘Going for Growth’ realised. The Union has always believed strongly and argued that Northern Ireland needs well funded, co-ordinated and export focused marketing to help assist in the growth and development of the industry.
“Many sectors already undertake their own marketing through commercial companies and specialised, well-established marketing structures all which will posses significant expertise in promoting their own areas.
“The creation of a new industry-led body would enable all of these to work together for the benefit of the NI agri-food industry as a whole, ultimately strengthening their own sectoral marketing positions as well.
“However, it is important that farmers are not forgotten and any marketing plans should not be to the detriment or at the expense of the primary production part of the food chain.”