NI farm strategy aims to boost jobs and sales

Northern Ireland’s agriculture ministers have launched a plan for the agri-food industry which outlines plans for extra jobs and a growth in sales and exports.

The Agri-Food Strategy Board report, entitled Going For Growth, was unveiled at the Balmoral Show on Thursday 16 May.

Report aims:

  • To create 15,000 jobs within the Agri-food sector over the next seven years
  • To grow sales by 60% from £5bn to £7bn by 2020.
  • To increase sales outside of NI by 75% to £4.5bn

The Department for Agriculture and Rural development report includes more than 100 recommendations, which are geared towards accelerating growth in the industry by 2020 and beyond.

Speaking at the launch, board chairman Tony O’Neill recognised this year had been one of the most challenging for farmers. He said: “It’s very difficult for us to talk about optimism and growth for the future.”

But he said optimism was exactly what farmers needed to have and he said planning for growth was key.

“It is up to us to create these opportunities for our children, for the future generation.”

Agriculture minister Michelle O’Neill said opportunities existed and needed to be grasped with both hands.

“The food and drinks processing industry has already demonstrated its capacity to grow over the past decade, despite some very significant challenges and I believe the agri-food sector is poised to take advantage of the additional demand that is evident.”

The plan gives a detailed roadmap for growth across 10 key sectors including the beef and sheep, dairy and poultry sectors.

Recommendations include finding new markets, increasing the intake of young people and having a single supply chain where all parties work together and are treated fairly.

“It is not a strategy, it is an action plan saying if we do these things we will deliver the results.

“That’s not to say it’s easy. We, as an industry, have to step up to the mark and make brave and visionary actions.”

Primary recommendations:

  • New industry approach, with farmers, processors, distributors and retailers working together towards the same goals
  • Government investment of £400m over the next three years
  • Improve external growth by improving access to new markets, developing inter-government relationships and maximising value of the whole product. For example, all animal parts
  • Implement a co-ordinated and effective marketing campaign and deliver it through a single Agri-Food Marketing organisation to help give a clear strategy
  • Remove barriers to export such as charges for Export Health Certificates (EHCs)
  • Revise planning and IPPC Procedures

 

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