Economy Minister Arlene Foster today announced a £4.3million investment in skills and training by Dale Farm Limited.
The Minister made the announcement during a visit to the company's headquarters in Belfast, hosted by Dr David Dobbin, Group Chief Executive.
Supported by an offer of £896,393 from Invest Northern Ireland - which is being part funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) - the investment will see Dale Farm, Northern Ireland's largest dairy products company, undertake an extensive training programme which will enhance its productivity and competitiveness particularly in export markets.
The company currently employs over 500 people and exports Northern Ireland dairy products to 45 countries.
The Minister said: "This is one of the biggest-ever investments in training by a Northern Ireland food processing business. Dale Farm, a strategically important business for the local dairy industry, is implementing a far reaching programme of best practice training and skills development. These initiatives will increase efficiency, reduce costs and further enhance the services offered to customers locally, nationally and internationally."
Dale Farm is the most significant business in dairying, our biggest agri-food sector. The NI dairying industry collectively exports around 80% of its output worth over £400million annually.
Mrs Foster continued: "Our support for this significant investment, by a business focused on innovation and new product development, is a further example of the Executive's commitment to promote and assist locally-owned companies in key sectors such as food, to accelerate growth in sales outside Northern Ireland.
"Invest NI has been working closely with food companies, including Dale Farm, on the biggest marketing campaign ever mounted for the industry in Great Britain, the Irish Republic, in other European markets as well as the US, Middle East and Asia.
"Invest NI support continues to provide significant opportunities for the local food industry to secure new business by brokering face to face meetings at strategic 'Meet the Buyer' events and participation at trade fair events which have resulted in over £40million of new business being won."
Dr Dobbin, outlining the investment, said: "We are making this extensive investment in training & development at all levels of our company to ensure that we can continue to grow our business against a background of intensive competition, significant energy and input cost inflation and volatile markets.
"The investment is in line with our ongoing strategy of ensuring we have an internationally competitive local manufacturing base, achieving best in class performance in terms of cost, quality and innovative products, and to embed an ethos of continuous improvement throughout the business.
"By developing our skills base, applying new technology and enhancing our customer service we aim to meet the changing needs of customers and consumers and to deliver higher added value to the Northern Ireland dairy farmers who rely on us to market and process their milk," he added.