Belfast Telegraph

Food and agri sector at heart of economy

By Ron Immink

I am a bit of a 'red neck'. In my home village in Holland I grew up in between bulbs, cows and pigs, and helped out on the farm.

As I got older, I lost touch and became a bit of a city slicker (farmers don't hire management consultants).

I remember going to the Balmoral Show for the first time a few years ago, which was followed by the ploughing championships in the same year. I was blown away by the vibrancy of the food and agri sector. They are now my favourite events in the year.

I was at Balmoral again this year.

I think it is now finally recognised that food and agri are the core of the economy and have a huge part to play.

As one farmer explained: "Wait until the decoupling comes into effect and you will have seen nothing yet!"

And again, a great buzz and an enormous variety of businesses, as is illustrated in the companies that are featured on these pages today.

Both Cloughbane and Corries are companies that have focused on controlling the value chain, creating a brand and including e-commerce.

You wouldn't think you could do meat by post, but one of their channels is an online shop.

The EU in total is 500 million. Imagine delivering high value food across that market.

The same farmer that was explaining decoupling also was adamant that meat from the north west is the best meat in Europe.

When I asked him why he and a few farmers were not setting up a meat co-op to start branding and selling, he explained that farmers are their own worst enemy.

Pity. You would think that the size of the EU market (and that is ignoring China and India as export markets) would be compelling enough.

As an aside, one food company that we know well is Boozeberries.

They were the Northern Ireland finalists for The Pitch. We helped them to get to the final and coached them for it.

They nearly won a €50,000 prize. If you are interested in winning The Pitch this year, let us know. Email me at: ron@smallbusinesscan.com.

We want you to win and we will throw the kitchen sink at it. Cloughbane and Corries should both apply.

Ron Immink is co-founder of www.smallbusinesscan.com

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