Boom time for food and drink sector
Northern Ireland's agri-food and drinks industry produced a turnover of around £3.7bn in 2010 but there is still "considerable potential" for expansion.
Speaking at the National Ploughing Championships in Athy, Co Kildare - now in its 80th year - agriculture minister Michelle O'Neill revealed the gross turnover from the food and drinks sector in Northern Ireland in 2010 was estimated at £3.7bn, representing an 8.3% increase on the previous year.
She said: "During the past 10 years there has been steady growth in the agri-food and drink industry, but I believe there is yet considerable potential for it to expand.
"The medium to long-term global prospects for the sector are better now than they have been for a long time and that it is being increasingly recognised. I have no doubt the sector is capable of meeting the additional demands that this will create."
The minister called for "partnership" between government and industry to allow her department to support the sector's potential for successful growth.
Ms O'Neill also spoke about the Focus on Food strategy, aimed at planning for a thriving and sustainable agri-food sector.
She said: "This strategy lays firm foundations and I believe the time is now right to take this work to the next level."