Members back call for graduate agri-food education

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MLAs called for a pool of graduates to lead the agri-food sector into the future, on 25 February 2013.

The DUP motion called for the development of graduate programmes in the agri-food sector in Northern Ireland's universities.

The party's Tom Buchanan emphasised the importance of the sector for Northern Ireland's economy.

He said almost 30% of the workforce was employed in the agri-food industry.

Mr Buchanan said there was a need for more expertise in marketing, management skills and animal nutrition.

Chris Hazzard of Sinn Fein said agriculture had proved to be one of the most resilient parts of the local economy.

He praised the establishment of the Food Innovation Centre at Loughry, County Tyrone.

Ulster Unionist Joanne Dobson said applications to agricultural college courses were, "both healthy and to be warmly welcomed".

Joe Byrne of the SDLP noted that the world's population was growing at 1.5m a week and this represented a growing market for the agri-food sector.

The Employment Minister, Stephen Farry, said his department was committed to supplying the agri-food industry with "the appropriately-skilled individuals it needs to flourish".

The minister made reference to his Future Skills Action Plan, which aimed to attract young people into the agri-food industry and to make it easier for employers to access training provision.

Paul Frew of the DUP reassured members on the safety of Northern Irish beef in the wake of the horsemeat scandal.

He said it was "100% traceable from the gate to the plate".

The motion was carried on an oral vote.

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