DAERA Minister Michelle McIlveen has welcomed newly released figures highlighting the growth of the local food and drinks processing sector.
The figures were published in the annual report ‘Size and Performance of the NI Food and Drinks Processing Sector, Subsector Statistics 2014, with provisional estimates for 2015’.
The Minister said: “The food and drinks processing sector figures released today indicate continuing growth in the industry and that is welcome. As would be expected given the difficulties in key agri-food commodity markets, the rate of growth was lower than in previous years. However, this industry has shown resilience and entrepreneurship in the face of these challenges and continues to make a very important contribution to the wider manufacturing sector and regional economy.”
Minister McIlveen added: “The food sector has been, and continues to be, a real force within our economy and has potential for further growth. I will work closely with the Economy Minister and with the industry itself on our key priorities to deliver growth for the agri-food sector and benefits to the wider economy.
“My Department is working hard to facilitate the export growth of our food sector. China is an export destination that has been developing and I want more opportunities to be realised in the months and years ahead. Officials continue to work with industry to prepare approval and maintenance inspections by potential and current trading partners across a range of commodities. I welcome the inward approval inspections that have recently been completed for pork exports to Australia and I look forward to the final report which is due before the end of 2016.
“Going forward we will have opportunities to open up new markets with other parts of the world, create new trading arrangements with the EU and sell more to GB. I intend to engage with colleagues in Westminster to safeguard and promote the best interests of our industry in the forthcoming negotiations.”
The Minister concluded, “We are all aware of the challenges facing the agri-food sector at the moment and especially the financial difficulties that farmers are experiencing. In my recent meetings in Brussels with Commissioner Hogan and Defra Minister George Eustice, I highlighted the unique and extreme market conditions affecting the sector here and I will continue to press London and Europe for effective support for our hard-pressed farmers.
I have committed to issuing 70% advance payments from 16 October this year and to ensuring that 95% of the basic payment is paid by the end of the year. My Department will continue to work to build the resilience and competitiveness of the sector through a range of support, including education, training and research. We are also providing support through the new Rural Development Programme to help build a strong and resilient industry that can deal with challenges and take advantage of the opportunities going forward.”