An independent strategic review into the future of the agri-food sector in Northern Irelans has been announced by Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots and Economy Minister Diane Dodds.
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 review will be led by former President of the National Farmers’ Union, Sir Peter Kendall.
“As a result of our new trading arrangements, COVID-19 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,” said Poots. “We must also unlock the new opportunities ahead to build a thriving, more sustainable, resilient and profitable agri-food sector.
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: “The review 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.
Agriculture and the food industry account for 16% of the NI economy. Employing some 100,000 people, it is the province’s largest manufacturing industry.
The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) welcomed the independent strategic review. UFU president Victor Chestnutt said, “We are fully supportive of the independent review into the future of the NI agri-food sector. The farming landscape has changed significantly in the past year alone with the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and the UK’s exit from the EU which brought with it new trading arrangements and the implementation of the NI Protocol.
“The review will help us look to the future, take advantage of the opportunities and develop our agri-food industry to ensure it thrives, becomes more sustainable and profitable going forward. We look forward to engaging with Sir Peter Kendall and the review team.”