An independent strategic review into the future of the agri-food sector here has been announced by Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots MLA and Economy Minister Diane Dodds MLA.
The six month review will consider the challenges facing both the food processing and primary agriculture industries as well as making recommendations on how to take full advantage of new opportunities.
The Independent Strategic Review of the NI Agri-Food Sector (ISRAF) will be led by former President of the National Farmers’ Union, Sir Peter Kendall.
Announcing the review, Minister Poots said: “As a result of our new trading arrangements, Covid and Climate Change we are operating in a very different landscape which we must navigate if we are to successfully tackle the challenges each presents. We must also unlock the new opportunities ahead to build a thriving, more sustainable, resilient and profitable agri-food sector.
“The ISRAF will help us do that by providing a sharp, focussed review with recommendations for both the industry and Executive departments informing decision making and policy development.
“Sir Peter brings decades of valuable experience and personal expertise through his time spent as President of the National Farmers’ Union and Chairman of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board. His profile and standing in the UK agri-food industry is an important asset to the review,” added Minister Poots.
The Review Team, consisting of Sir Peter Kendall, Dr Jonathan Birnie and Julie Robinson and Dr Clive Black will also consider challenges and opportunities including:
- Improving productivity;
- Enhancing economic and environmental sustainability, including carbon footprint;
- Reduced access to migrant labour;
- Increasing the levels of innovation and R&D;
- Changing market demands for food products;
- Market opportunities;
- The case for regional branding;
- The development of an independent UK Trade policy, and
- Recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Minister Dodds stated: “ISRAF will consider the future development of the entire NI agri-food sector, including both farm producers and food processors. The Review will consider the strategic challenges and opportunities that the sector now faces from Covid-19, consumers trends and new trading arrangements, as well as the development of an independent UK Trade policy. It will make recommendations for both industry and Government.”
Sir Peter Kendall said: “As a farmer, I’m more excited about the future than I have been at any time in my career in the food industry so leading a project that looks at how Northern Ireland agri-food makes the most of its unique position is a real privilege.
“I’m looking forward to hearing from all parts of the supply chain and from stakeholders so that we can come up with a shared, evidence-based vision that is ambitious but doable if we all play our part. There’s no denying that the climate change and environmental challenges are massive but they also give NI agri-food a chance to set itself apart as a sector which is rising to those challenges while driving forwards to be internationally competitive,” he added.
Nick Whelan, Chair, Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association (NIFDA) said he was looking forward to working with Sir Peter.
“Agri-food is a key economic asset to Northern Ireland, accounting for 16% of our entire local economy. Employing some 100,000 people, it is our largest manufacturing industry and one that has continued to grow even as other sectors have sadly contracted.
“Over the past year the twin challenges of Brexit and Covid-19 have impacted all industries and society as a whole. These are difficult times, however as we begin to emerge from the pandemic, the focus of government must be on developing a path to recovery for the local economy. Ultimately a strong agri-food sector will be crucial to securing that recovery,” he said.
Notes to editors:
1. The Independent Strategic Review of NI Agri-Food Sector (ISRAF) has been jointly launched by Minister Dodds and Minister Poots.
2. Sir Peter Kendall was President of the National Farmers’ Union for England and Wales from 2006 until 2014 and was Chairman of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) from April 2014 to March 2020. Sir Peter received a Knighthood for his services to the agricultural industry in England and Wales in the Queen’s 2015 New Year’s Honours.
3. Julie Robinson was chief legal adviser of the NFU (England & Wales) and then headed up the NFU’s Government Affairs team and worked as Sir Peter’s policy adviser. She is now in private practice. A former director of the Oxford Farming Conference, she is currently a governor of the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester. She is a member of the council of the Agricultural Law Association.
4. Dr Jonathan Birnie is the head of Birnie Consultancy, with a PhD from the Agricultural Research Institute of Northern Ireland. He has worked as a policy advisor for the National Farmers Union in England and as Sainsburys’ Agricultural Manager. He then worked for Dunbia running Agricultural Supply Chain Research and Development, and as the Head of Agriculture and Research.
5. Dr Clive Black is the Head of Research at Shore Capital Markets and Chair of the Institute of Global Food Security’s Industry Advisory Board. Dr Black has a PhD on the Northern Ireland Food industry from The Queen’s University Belfast and was Head of Food Policy at the National Farmers’ Union.
6. All media queries should be directed to the DAERA Press Office.
8. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours’ service for media enquiries only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.