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Northern Ireland food sector 'needs support and exports group'

Nick Whelan

Northern Ireland’s food sector needs a fresh support scheme, financial assistance and the establishment of a new exporting body to secure its future post-coronavirus, it’s been claimed.

Nick Whelan, chief executive of Dale Farm, was speaking after being appointed as the new chairman of the Northern Ireland Ireland Food and Drink Association (NIFDA) board.

He will hold the position for two years, while George Mullan, managing director, ABP Northern Ireland, has been appointed as vice chairman.

“These have been extremely challenging times for all of us. Our workers in the food industry – our food heroes – have been working harder than ever to ensure that the nation continues to have access to safe, nutritious food,” he said.

“Companies have had to adapt to an ever-changing situation, responding rapidly to fluctuations in demand and transforming factories by implementing social distancing measures.

“The industry has demonstrated its resilience and its ability to innovate, but it remains a very difficult time. The loss of what we call the ‘foodservice’ market – restaurants, hotels, cafes, pubs, canteens – has led to serious stock and cashflow issues for many food manufacturers.

“We need a capital expenditure support scheme now, and grants should be given to support firms in investing further in automation, innovation and skills. Furthermore, the establishment of a food export marketing body is long overdue and should be an urgent priority for the Northern Ireland Executive.”

Ulster Business