Northern Ireland’s food and drink leaders met with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs George Eustice in Belfast last week to discuss the challenges facing the industry.
Speaking after the meeting, Michael Bell, Executive Director, Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association (NIFDA), said: “The Secretary of State has engaged with the industry on several occasions in various roles, and we are delighted to welcome him back to Belfast at what is a challenging time for Northern Ireland food and drink.
“Food manufacturers across the UK are dealing with multiple challenges at present.
“The sector has been experiencing serious difficulty in accessing labour across the supply chain, with farmers, processors and supermarkets all coming under additional strain. At the same time, firms are also grappling with rising energy costs coupled with difficulty in accessing Co2.
“We briefed the Secretary of State on these issues and exchanged views on the future direction of food and farming as the UK embarks on an independent agricultural policy post-Brexit, and the opportunities this presents for the sector. Despite the challenges the industry faces at present, we remain optimistic about the future.
“Food and drink is one of Northern Ireland’s key economic assets, supporting some 113,000 jobs locally and feeding millions of people across the United Kingdom, Europe and beyond.
“We have the potential to grow even further and with the right support we can create even more sustainable jobs, and secure Northern Ireland’s economic recovery from the pandemic.”
Mr Eustice said: “I was glad to meet food and drink companies in Northern Ireland to discuss our shared interests and how we work together to support them.
“We recognise the challenges facing producers, particularly in processing at the moment, and we will make sure that we put the needs of this unique food and drink sector at the forefront of our work to support the industry.”