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Latest figures on the local food and drinks processing sector are encouraging – O’Neill

Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle O’Neill has today welcomed the latest figures which highlight the great potential for further growth of the local food and drinks processing sector.

The figures were published in the annual report, ‘Size and Performance of the N.I. Food and Drinks Processing Sector, Subsector Statistics 2011, with provisional estimates for 2012’.

The Minister said: “The sector recorded continuing growth in both turnover and exports between 2010 and 2011. This is particularly welcome given the current demanding economic climate. The figures demonstrate the important role played by our local food and drinks processing sector and its contribution to the local manufacturing sector and wider regional economy.”

The Minister said that the initiatives undertaken by her Department continued to contribute towards the performance of the sector. She said: “The Agri-Food Strategy Board published its much anticipated ‘Going for Growth’ strategic plan at the RUAS Balmoral Show this year. ‘Going for Growth’ sets ambitious and challenging targets for export-led growth of the sector to 2020, including a 60% increase in sales to £7billion and a 75% increase in sales outside the north of Ireland to £4.5billion. It is encouraging to see that progress is being made towards those targets. I look forward to working with industry and relevant ministerial colleagues in ensuring that the potential of the agri-food sector is maximised for the good of our entire economy going forward to 2020 and indeed beyond.

“The work undertaken at our CAFRE Loughry Campus remains very important to the sector. Loughry Campus provides a range of full-time and part-time, higher and further education food courses up to degree level, which provides a highly skilled pool of potential employees and managers for our local food and drinks processing businesses. In addition, it provides a range of technical support services for our food businesses.”

The Minister concluded: “I am also very encouraged by the strong interest shown again in the latest opening of our Processing and Marketing Grant (PMG) Scheme earlier this year. While applications are still being processed and assessments taking place, the scheme is important to the industry in helping to drive our processing businesses forward by expanding or by improving and developing their economic performance in both our local and export market places.”

Welcoming the latest figures Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said: “The figures published today highlight that our food and drinks processing sector continues to flourish. The increase in both turnover and exports between 2010 and 2011 is very encouraging and demonstrates the resilience of the industry. There continue to be opportunities for growth for businesses that are prepared to seek new markets and I would encourage the sector to optimise all available opportunities to further develop.

“The food and drinks processing sector continues to be a major asset to our economy. Over the last year, my Department has been working with the Agri-Food Strategy Board, along with leading employers from the sector to assist in the development of a Strategic Action Plan for the industry. The targets within the Plan reflect the agri-food industry’s ambitions for the sector and I am confident that they can continue to grasp the emerging opportunities available to them and to go from strength to strength in the future.”

Notes to editors:

1. The report was produced by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

2. The report and time-series data from 1989 – 2011/2012, may be downloaded from the DARD website at: http://www.dardni.gov.uk/index/statistics/statistical-reports/size-and-performance-of-the-ni-food-and-drinks-processing-sector.htm

3. If a hard copy of the report is required, it may be obtained at a cost of £6 from the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Policy and Economics Division, Room 656, Dundonald House, Upper Newtownards Road, Ballymiscaw, Belfast BT4 3SB.

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