Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster has congratulated the agri-food sector on its economic success at the Balmoral Show’s Ulster Bank lunch.
During her address to an audience of industry leaders, the Minister acknowledged the difficult economic climate and emphasised the importance of setting challenging targets for growth.
Arlene Foster said: “The agri-food sector is one of the most important sectors within the local economy. It is the largest contributor to sales, external sales and employment in the Northern Ireland manufacturing sector.
“Due to its strong focus on exports, the sector has demonstrated a strong track record of growth even through the global recession. That is why growing exports is a key priority in both the Programme for Government and the Economic Strategy.
“In fact, the Economic Strategy identifies the agri-food industry as one of our priority sectors and it contains a key commitment to develop an agri-food strategy and action plan to drive export-led growth. The recently established Agri Food Strategy Board will also be working to develop a longer term vision for the sector.”
Turning to the employment opportunities that exist within the sector, the Minister continued: “Inputs to the food and drinks sector are mainly sourced from local agriculture and as a result the multiplier impacts of growth in this sector are considerable. For every job created in the food and drinks sector, a further three jobs are created in the wider regional economy.
“Skilled workers are important and I know that some of the businesses here today have availed of support through Invest Northern Ireland’s Jobs Fund which was set up to stimulate job creation in response to the challenges of the global economic downturn. Since the fund began we have already supported over 330 new jobs in the agri-food sector.”
The Minister concluded: “Businesses that can compete successfully on the world stage can contribute immensely to the local economy, and Invest Northern Ireland are helping agri-food companies to focus on the markets that offer greatest potential.”