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Agri-food sector will adapt to Brexit, says DAERA chief

The opening day of the Balmoral Show on Wednesday.
The opening day of the Balmoral Show on Wednesday.
Ryan McAleer

By Ryan McAleer

The civil servant in charge of the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has said he has "absolutely no doubt" that Northern Ireland's agri-food sector will adapt and succeed beyond Brexit.

Speaking at the Balmoral Show, DAERA permanent secretary Dr Denis McMahon confirmed that Brexit has been a major focus for the department in the past year.

He told over 100 delegates yesterday morning: "Only through collaboration and engagement with stakeholders and industry can we find solutions and resolutions to difficult issues such as Brexit.

"We continue to work at pace providing information and analysis to ensure Northern Ireland gets the best deal for our industry, our environment and our rural communities.

"Beyond Brexit, I have absolutely no doubt that Northern Ireland's agri-food industry will survive, adapt and develop to new levels of success.

"We have a talent-driven industry consistently attracting hugely capable innovators and leaders."

But despite operating without a functioning Executive or with the oversight of a minister for more than two years, he told the delegates at Balmoral Show that "DAERA has seen a very successful year".

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He listed the establishment of the Tuberculosis Eradication Partnership and said some £30m had been committed across 700 projects under the EU LEADER programme, creating over 1,000 full-time equivalent jobs.

He also said the Farm Business Improvement Capital Scheme has the potential to leverage over £72m of investment in the industry.

Dr McMahon said the agricultural industry is now worth over £4.5bn to the Northern Ireland economy, with over 100,000 people employed in the agri-food sector.

But he said his department faces a range of complex challenges in the coming year.

"We cannot face them, or indeed overcome them, alone," he said.

Belfast Telegraph