Northern Ireland agri-food sector set for major review

By Conor Macauley
BBC News NI Agriculture & Environment Correspondent

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Northern Ireland's agri-food sector generates about £5bn in sales each year

A review has been ordered into Northern Ireland's key agri-food sector, with its recommendations potentially influential for future policy.

The sector generates sales of about £5bn a year and supports 100,000 jobs.

The agriculture and economy ministers have asked that the challenges and opportunities are looked at.

The six-month review will be chaired by the former leader of the National Farmers' Union Sir Peter Kendall.

He and his team will be asked to examine how agri-food can increase productivity while reducing its carbon footprint.

They will also consider market opportunities and the implications of a new UK trade policy.

'Internationally competitive'

Sir Peter said he was looking forward to the work.

"There's no denying that the climate change and environmental challenges are massive," he said.

"But they also give Northern Ireland agri-food a chance to set itself apart as a sector which is rising to those challenges while driving forwards to be internationally competitive."

Nick Whelan, the chair of the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association, said it was a crucial time to be assessing the future of the industry.

"These are difficult times, however as we begin to emerge from the pandemic the focus of government must be on developing a path to recovery for the local economy," he said.

"Ultimately a strong agri-food sector will be crucial to securing that recovery."