Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots MLA and Economy Minister Gordon Lyons MLA have met with Sir Peter Kendall to discuss the findings of the Independent Strategic Review of the NI Agri-Food Sector report.
The Review, which was led by Sir Peter and published in January 2022, explored the challenges and opportunities faced by the agri-food sector in Northern Ireland.
The meeting, which was also attended by Review team members Julie Robinson and Jonathan Birnie, and officials from the Department for the Economy; discussed the report’s recommendations, which focus on the overarching ambition of a joined-up agri-food sector that is pursuing improved productivity and environmental sustainability.
Minister Poots said: “I am pleased to meet with Sir Peter to discuss the findings of the ISRAF report, which I broadly welcome. I also note that there is support within the agri-food sector stakeholders for some of the recommendations. The Northern Ireland Agri-Food sector is a vital part of our economy and society and it is therefore important that it places itself in the best position to take advantage of existing and future opportunities.”
The Minister continued: “Many of the report’s recommendations match the approaches proposed under my Department’s Future Agricultural Policy framework, which provides a new vision for a future agricultural regime based on the four key outcomes of increased productivity, environmental sustainability, improved resilience and an effective functioning supply chain. We must work together towards delivering more innovative, sustainable and inclusive growth over the next decade. Northern Ireland is renowned for its high quality locally produced food and we must continue to support its promotion in external markets in order to maintain our strong global presence. I note the industry-led Sustainability Body proposal within the Review has been positively welcomed by stakeholders and I support the approach to setting up a sustainability body that works for industry purposes.”
The ongoing crisis in Ukraine was also discussed, with Minister Poots saying: “We are in the middle of a crisis that will only get worse in terms of rising feed and fertiliser costs, labour supply problems, energy price hikes and supply chain disruption. We must support our agri-food industry by understanding the pressures and identifying what mitigations can be put in place.”
Minister Lyons commented: “I am delighted to meet with Sir Peter, and his team, to thank them personally for this very comprehensive Report, and discuss their findings.
“I too broadly welcome the Report. Many of its recommendations, such as the industry-led Sustainability Body, align with my Department’s 10X Vision for the NI economy - delivering more innovative, sustainable and inclusive growth over the next decade. There is also direct read-across to my Department’s Energy Strategy and the Skills for a 10X Economy Strategy.”
The Minister stated: “However, implementing these strategies, and those recommendations relevant to the food-processing sector, once agreed, will require funding. Clearly, in the context of the very challenging Budget position my Department faces over the next three years, this will be extremely difficult.”
Review lead, Sir Peter Kendall said: “This is a game changing moment for the Northern Ireland agri-food industry. Brexit, climate change and protecting the environment add their own challenges, but if we work together on these recommendations, they can be achieved.”
“Northern Ireland has the potential to be a real hub of innovation for food and agriculture, using data to drive forward change. The use of smart data can help to revolutionise the sector’s competitiveness, but we must help farmers to understand and use this data effectively. I want to see an industry that can continue to boast about its unrivalled provenance.”
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