Members of the Agri-Food Strategy Board have updated two Stormont ministers on the progress being made on the ‘Going for Growth’ report.
The meeting took place on Thursday with Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle O’Neill and Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Jonathan Bell.
Speaking after the meeting in Belfast, Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “There is no doubt the agri-food sector plays a very significant role in our economy. Therefore growing the sector is a key priority of mine, with a keen focus on improving our competitiveness through a sustainable, primary production base.
“Today, we have had a very positive meeting with the Agri-Food Strategy Board and as government and industry share responsibility for implementation of the Going for Growth project, it was timely to take stock of progress made so far and plan for future action.”
Minister O’Neill added: “In addition to updating the board on key DARD actions, I outlined my view of the board’s role in driving forward the industry-led actions, with a particular focus on developing sustainable integrated supply chains. With significant export-led targets for the sector, the need for a sustainable, competitive primary production base is more important than ever and I believe that the AFSB has a key role in achieving this.
“The board will also continue to provide advice to DARD as we finalise key schemes to support competitiveness in the industry through the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, particularly our proposals for a Farm Business Improvement Scheme.”
Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Jonathan Bell commented: “I am very aware of the importance of the agri-food sector to the local economy. I have been impressed by the amount of work being done to deliver Going for Growth. Invest NI has made significant investment in the sector and since the launch of the strategy in May 2013 has delivered more than 1,000 financial and advisory projects and offered £34 million assistance levering £415 million of total planned investment.
“Progress is also being made on a range of actions arising from the Going for Growth report including the establishment of an industry-led agri–food marketing body, the establishment of the £6.7 million NI Agri-Food Quest Competence Centre, the extension of Gas to the West, solutions for the Sustainable Use of Poultry Litter and a review of business red tape.”
Chair of the Agri-Food Strategy Board, Tony O’Neill added: “We had a very constructive meeting with the DARD and DETI Ministers, where we were able to update them on the ongoing work of the AFSB.
“We are continuing to progress the industry-led recommendations from Going for Growth and will also provide advice to Executive departments and agencies as required, as they implement their own actions.
“Collaboration and partnership between industry representatives and government departments was key to the development of our strategy, and it will remain just as important if we are to implement the actions outlined in Going for Growth.”