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2016 will be Northern Ireland’s Year of Food

By Claire Cromie

We're not just about crisp sandwiches and potato bread - 2016 has been declared Northern Ireland's Year of Food.

The Enterprise Minister has announced the tourism drive to give more tourists an appetite to visit the province.

And while some of the locals may yet have to be convinced, Arlene Foster said Northern Ireland has some of the best food and restaurants in the world.

"The potential this has when it comes to tourism cannot be underestimated," she told the Tourism Northern Ireland annual conference.

"Food tourism already generates over £350million per year to the local economy, but I believe there is significant room for further growth. That’s why I have asked Tourism Northern Ireland to begin preparatory work to develop the Year of Food initiative and have secured funding to allow them to do so.

"We know how good our food is, which is probably why we enjoy eating out so much, the recent Barclaycard report showing Northern Ireland people spend more on eating out than the rest of the UK is proof of that. Now it’s time to build on our growing reputation for excellence and give visitors even more mouth watering reasons to come here."

In the lead up to and during 2016, there will be a series of events to attract potential visitors.

The Year of Food will see support for the industry through masterclasses and mentoring programmes, the development of new food experiences and trails, and development of a toolkit to enable a wide range of people across Northern Ireland to get involved in promoting their produce and their area.

Ms Foster added: "We boast some world-class produce, not to mention talented chefs, restaurants, skilled cookery schools and a rich food heritage, all of which is becoming better known, especially in GB, which is our key market. The Year of Food will enable us to continue to raise our profile nationally and to promote Northern Ireland food tourism on the international stage."

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