An ambitious action plan – which sets out a path to drive investment, encourage growth and boost job creation in the local agri-food sector – has been launched by Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council.
Developed in partnership with food and drink producers and key industry stakeholders, ABC Council’s new £50,000 Food Heartland Action Plan will help local businesses address the unprecedented changes taking place in the agri-food sector and support them to maximise future growth opportunities.
Making a huge contribution to the economic output and identity of the borough, the local agri-food sector is made up of a diverse range of businesses – from household brands to the specialist artisan producers – and employs around 15,000 people, accounting for 25 per cent of all agri-food employment in Northern Ireland.
It is fair to say the sector is facing a period of rapid transformation, dealing with a range of issues from the coronavirus pandemic and new operating environments to advancements around sustainability, and research and development.
Welcoming the Food Heartland Action Plan, Lord Mayor Kevin Savage said: “Our borough is proudly home to world-class artisan food and drink producers renowned for creating unique, outstanding and delicious products not only to the local market but also internationally.
“Having massively stepped up during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, this resilient and inventive sector is continuing to play a key role in keeping the nation fed with high quality produce in an ever-changing operating environment.
“This funding commitment and action plan will accelerate collaboration among local agri-food partners, boost industry synergy and help support the long term and sustainable growth of this critical sector.”
The forward-looking Action Plan covers four cross-cutting themes, namely Food Heartland Voice; Artisan and SME Support; Larger Business Support; and Support to Succeed in the Future.
Through projects such as industry-wide engagement forums, training sessions as well as business growth and development programmes, the Action Plan will work with the sector to improve competitiveness, reduce costs and support production as well as encourage growth, leverage opportunities and help mitigate against challenges.
Chair of the Economic Development and Regeneration Committee, Councillor Brian Pope, commented: “With increased complexity, the local economic landscape has seen a dramatic overhaul like no other since the onset of Covid-19.
“Local food and drink producers are continuing to pivot and innovate to overcome challenges and grasp opportunities.
“Through the new Food Heartland Action Plan, we as a council are committed to helping the sector to take advantage of new and different ways of operating to help stimulate business growth and ensure the sector’s continued development.”
Championing the new Food Heartland Action Plan, Chair of Irwin’s Bakery and Food Heartland member Brian Irwin commented: “Support for businesses – small and large – across the borough of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon is of
vital importance in this current economic climate.
“This action plan will help address key issues faced by local food and drink producers as well as help businesses embrace new technology, innovation and drive better buying techniques.”
The Food Heartland Action Plan is aligned to Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council’s Recovery and Growth Framework
n Access the Food Heartland Action Plan 2021 can be found at www.armaghbanbridgecraigavon.gov.uk/business/food-heartland/
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