Agriculture Minister Michelle McIlveen visited the Asda store in Newtownards today where she met senior representatives from the company.
During the meeting Minister McIlveen discussed a range of issues, including the sourcing of local agri-food produce.
The Minister said: “Agri-food is our largest indigenous industry, our biggest manufacturing industry and our largest single employer. It plays a vital role in our local economy. I firmly believe that strong supply chains based on communication, trust and transparency, with fair distribution of returns, are key to ensuring the supply of consistently high-quality food to the consumer. This must be underpinned by fair local pricing which supports the sector.
“To achieve this we need a collective effort. Everyone – including government, stakeholders, suppliers, producers and retailers of all sizes – has a role to play.”
The DAERA Minister was given a tour of the store where she saw a range of locally sourced produce, including meat, dairy products, eggs, poultry and bread.
Speaking during the tour, Miss McIlveen said: “I appreciate the opportunity to see at first-hand the wide range of first-class Northern Ireland sourced produce on the supermarket shelves.
“I am pleased to hear about Asda’s Supplier Development Academy which, in conjunction with Invest Northern Ireland, will develop agri-food businesses that show the potential to supply their products across Asda stores in Great Britain.
“The quality of our agri-food products and the innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship within our local food and drink sector is second to none. Our produce has world leading traceability and safety controls. It is produced on farms with a strong track record in quality assurance systems and with high animal health and welfare systems.
“I recognise the tremendous amount of hard work to get our agri-food produce from the farm to the shelves, and acknowledge the role of supermarkets such as Asda in this regard.
“Today, the Senior Director NI for Asda, George Rankin, has highlighted Asda’s local sourcing policy and ongoing commitment to Northern Ireland’s agri-food businesses.”
Mr Rankin commented: “We are delighted to welcome Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Michelle McIIveen to Asda Newtownards. The visit provides an excellent opportunity to discuss key issues affecting the local retail sector in Northern Ireland, including supply chain, local sourcing and our award-winning sustainability programme.
“Asda is committed to supporting the growth of the agri-food sector in Northern Ireland, working with local suppliers and providing our customers with the local products they want to purchase. With over £300million of produce sourced annually from over 100 producers across the island of Ireland, we are keen to extend our support for the sector by creating more opportunities for our local suppliers, both in the Northern Ireland and GB markets. A great example of our ongoing commitment is Asda’s Supplier Development Academy, which is a bespoke training and development programme for local food and drink companies.”
There are 17 Asda stores in Northern Ireland. They source from a number of local food companies, some of which also supply Asda stores across the UK.