With partnership from the Executive regarding sustainability, planning, investment and skills, I believe we can accelerate the growth of our industry
The good news... the data taken from the latest Size and Performance of the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Processing Industry report published by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, shows that through the recession to date, the food and drink industry's turnover is £3.68bn, which is a remarkable 8.4% growth year on year (2009/2010).
Indeed industry growth from 2008 shows a £554m turnover representing 18% growth.
The Northern Ireland Food and Drink industry supports upwards of 90,000 jobs locally including employment in areas including farming, haulage, hygiene, cold stores, packaging and engineering.
The even better news... the figures are very encouraging in the face of recession, but there is reason to believe we can do better!
The UK trade deficit in food is currently £18.4bn and represents a huge opportunity.
And it's a win-win scenario; addressing the trade deficit in food and drink could have multiple positive impacts on the UK economy beyond the broad call for reducing imports.
In October 2010 NIFDA published a document that showed that up to 15,000 jobs could be created simply by growing the industry akin to our nearest competitors.
So far, I have been greatly encouraged by the responses' of the Deti and Dard ministers.
The importance of agri-food to the programme for government must not be missed and by continuing to work together we will endeavour to create new jobs for our young people.
Food prices are rising and will continue to rise for the foreseeable future.
The forces driving this are global. Population growth combined with a finite amount of land available will inevitably mean that food and drink will rise in value.
Overall, we see a very bright future for the food and drink industry.
With partnership from the Executive regarding sustainability, planning, investment and skills; I believe that we can accelerate the growth of our industry.
For NIFDA and its members, I believe the future is tasty.
Michael Bell, is executive director of the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association (NIFDA)