Northern Ireland and "Focus on Food"
Northern Ireland's new Focus on Food policy, published earlier this summer, aims to put food at the heart of economic growth, and encourage value added, and quality, food production.
While in the South the food revolution of the past 30 years created a plethora of innovative, quality food businesses to feed a burgeoning tourism sector, in the North the food and farming industries have been more commodity focused, and have lagged behind on the quality front. The Focus on Food strategy aims to provide expertise and support to stimulate the food and farming sectors, which, after the public sector, are the single biggest employers in the region.
Sheila Dillon visits two new value-added businesses, the sorts of enterprise Focus on Food is designed to encourage: Mash Direct, selling a range of mashes and vegetable dishes fresh through the retailers and providing an economic future for the family, and Glastry Farm whose dairy herd provide the milk for their premium ice creams based around regional produce like Armagh Bramleys, and strawberries. She also talks to established artisan baker Robert Ditty. Is the government strategy enough to kick start quality food entrepreneurism in Northern Ireland? And in the era of public-sector cuts will the financial back-up be available?