Tesco vows to beef up levels of meats sourced in Northern Ireland
The chief executive of Tesco has pledged to double the amount of beef, chicken and pork it buys from Northern Ireland farms.
Philip Clarke, in Belfast to launch Queen's University's new Institute for Global Food Security, said the supermarket giant would source around 90% of all the meat it sells in supermarkets here from local farmers.
He stated: "I am very clear that the best way to have more control of the meat supply chain is to produce more of it closer to home.
"We know our customers' appetite for products from the UK and Ireland is greater than ever and we want to give them every opportunity to buy products produced locally."
The move, he said, was driven by customer demands.
"My aim is to source as much of what we sell in Northern Ireland from Northern Ireland. It's what our customers want, it's what we want. So today I am pleased to announce that we are doubling the amount we spend on buying fresh beef, pork and chicken from Northern Ireland farmers.
"That will mean that within the next few weeks, we will go from sourcing less than 20% of the meat we sell here locally to around 90%. And we're not going to stop there – we're going to do everything within our power to get as close as we can to 100%."
He said the supermarket would do its best to help the food industry grow its exports.
"I know from talking to people here today the scale of the ambition for the agricultural sector in Northern Ireland. If the Northern Ireland Agri-Food Strategy Board's aim of producing 30%-40% more food here by 2020 is to be achieved, clearly that means exporting more food to the rest of the UK, to the Republic of Ireland, and beyond.
"That's where I think the really big opportunity lies."
He said Tesco would offer longer contracts to give more certainty, supply chain finance and access to other Tesco markets.
Farmers cautiously welcomed the announcement.
Ulster Farmers Union spokesman Clarke Black said: "We certainly welcome all the announcements and all the fine words and we certainly would like to see action on the ground.
"We know how important agriculture and agri-food is to the Northern Ireland economy but we have to get over this difficulty that when we produce more that farmers take less for it."