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Agri-food sector can boost Causeway Coast economy - Archibald

23 April, 2016 - by Caoimhe Archibald

The Agri-Food sector is of huge importance to the economy of this island.  The sector supports some 330,000 jobs north and south. In recognition of its strategic importance is has been prioritised nationally with strategies including Going for Growth in the north, Food harvest 2020 and Food Wise 2025 in the south. 

Having worked in Agri-Food research for over a decade I believe there is huge potential which must be exploited for the long term economic and social benefit of the island as a whole. 

To do this requires a focus on sustainable agriculture production, improving productivity through knowledge & technology, supply chain consolidation and market expansion.  Accessing new markets is of course a key action, however the EU and its 500 million consumers is a market which must remain fully accessible along with the continuation of the supports it provides to our producers which underpin the productivity of the sector. 

Strategies like those mentioned are important to ensuring development and growth by setting targets and recommending actions.  Market volatility and changing consumer preferences present challenges to the sector but also huge opportunities which with strategising at national, regional and local level can lead to expansion of the industry.  

Earlier this week I launched the Causeway Agri-Food strategy which outlines a pathway to developing and expanding the sector on the north coast where there is a flourishing food and drinks sector alongside world renowned natural heritage sites and destination restaurants.  The strategy aims to take a holistic approach to development through cross sectoral collaboration between producers, industry, research institutes and also by including other sectors such as tourism.  Actions were identified to maximise the strengths and opportunities that exist across the Causeway area through partnership development, creation of an optimum environment for business start-up & growth through practical supports and funding, developing and implementing R&D strategies, along with skills development and a long term marketing strategy.  This combination of actions will provide the framework for the north coast to become the number one region for Agri-food in the north.

Irish produce is in demand worldwide due to its high quality, clean, green image, this is something we must continue to build on across the whole island and ensure the Irish Agri-Food sector becomes more competitive, greener and more profitable into the future.

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