Stormont should set up food export body for Northern Ireland, says Dobbin
The Executive should make the setting up of a Northern Ireland food export marketing body a priority, a lobby group has said.
The call for a counterpart of the Republic's Bord Bia was made by the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association (NIFDA) as it launched its manifesto.
NIFDA has set a target of creating 15,000 new jobs in the industry by 2020.
Around 20,000 people are currently working in it, according to 2011 estimates.
Chairman David Dobbin - also the head of United Dairy Farmers - said the industry needed the support of the Executive and Assembly.
He said: "Our target is to grow our industry's turnover to £7bn by 2020 and create 15,000 new jobs as outlined in the 'Going for Growth' report. However, we need the continued support of the Executive.
"In the NIFDA manifesto we outline a range of issues which require the Executive's support to create an environment which will improve our international competitiveness and allow us to generate sustainable growth through increased export sales."
He said the agri-food sector should be at the heart of economic strategy. The Executive needed to ensure that costs and skills were competitive, and that food and drink products were marketed.
And he added: "We need to address our higher energy costs, maintain rates relief for food manufacturers and get the food export marketing body up and running."
Government also needed to continue support for innovation and technology advancements, he said, adding: "We have an excellent platform upon which to grow the sector."
The manifesto launch was attended by representatives from major food and drink firms including Linden Foods, Mash Direct and SHS Group.