Belfast Telegraph

Focus on Food shows a healthy hunger to compete

The Executive has launched a new strategy designed to help the food industry compete in international markets.

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster and Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew launched the joint strategy for the sector, Focus on Food, which is underpinned by a partnership between their two departments and the agri-food industry advisory panel.

Arlene Foster said: "The key objective of the new strategy is to establish Northern Ireland as one of the most sustainable and successful food producing regions in Europe. It will build on the outstanding achievements of an industry which has weathered the economic downturn better than virtually every other sector.

"Food and drink has continued to generate wealth for this community by increasing sales outside Northern Ireland, and through a commitment to new product development. Innovation, of course, is the lifeblood of our economy. The strategy will seek to encourage and assist companies, both large and small, to invest in their future by focusing significant resources on innovation.

"Our aim is to capitalise on Northern Ireland's core strengths, including a clean environment, high quality processing plants, and skilled people, to build future value growth and development through strengthening the industry's productivity, sustainability, and overall competitiveness."

Michelle Gildernew added: "At the heart of the strategy is a commitment to encourage and assist the industry to produce, process and distribute food to feed a growing global population in ways which use the excellent natural resources of this island sustainably and efficiently. A thriving and sustainable agri-food sector is vital to the development of our rural communities, as well as the wider economy."