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Gildernew responds to Local Procurement debate

14 April, 2008

Sinn Féin Agriculture and Rural development Minister Michelle Gildernew MP MLA today responded to the No Day Named Motion debate regarding the public sector procurement of locally produced food.

Speaking in the Assembly she said:

"I have always believed in local produce. We have access to some of the world's best and freshest ingredients - right on our doorstep - and we shouldn't take that for granted. Buying local produce means voting for fewer food miles, fresher food and also a vote of confidence in our local producers who are working day and night to bring their produce to market and support their families and rural communities."

The minister emphasised that while prime responsibility for procurement lies with the Minister of Finance and Personnel, her department will continue to contribute positively to the work of Central Procurement Directorate in the development of guidance on the procurement of food. The department will also continue to work with producers and processors to help ensure that they are in a position to tender and win public procurement contracts.

With regard to origin labelling of beef in the food service sector, the minister also informed the assembly that a pilot scheme, in consultation with key stakeholders is currently underway. Whilst not ruling out compulsory country of origin labelling in the food service sector, she wanted to consider all options before deciding the best way forward.

In conclusion, the minister said:

"We all have a role to play in this issue and I would encourage everyone, from the big corporate business to the family weekly shop, to support local producers wherever possible. It is my strong desire that our collective activities will lead to a win-win situation for the North's agri-food industry." ENDS

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