The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State with responsibility for Agriculture and Rural Development, Ian Pearson MP, has announced details of an EU award package for the Northern Ireland food processing sector.

The awards, totalling £2.48 million from EU funds and £0.42 million from national funds, assist 10 projects submitted by applicants under the EU Agricultural Processing and Marketing Grant Scheme and the EU Marketing of Quality Agricultural Products Grant Scheme. These Schemes are designed to improve the economic performance and international competitiveness of the food processing sector.

Speaking at the official opening of a new milk evaporation unit and the announcement of a new cheese processing facility (which is being funded under the EU Agricultural Processing and Marketing Grant Scheme) at Dale Farm’s Dunman processing plant in Cookstown, the Minister said:

“I am very pleased to announce a second round of awards under these EU Schemes which form part of the Northern Ireland Programme for Building Sustainable Prosperity. The projects assessed were of a high quality and the award of grants demonstrates the Government’s commitment to ensuring the future sustainability of the Northern Ireland agri-food industry. The significant level of investment by the ten applicants also emphasises the progressive approach of food processing companies in Northern Ireland to meet consumer requirements. They also protect some 400 jobs and create a further 174 new jobs.”

The Minister also advised that the EU Agricultural Processing and Marketing Grant Scheme and the EU Marketing of Quality Agricultural Products Grant Scheme remain open for applications. A copy of the Scheme brochures and the appropriate application forms are available from DARDs Food Policy Branch (address and contact details below).

Commenting specifically on the new Dale Farm investment, in which the company is receiving assistance towards a £1.47 million capital investment under the EU Agricultural Processing and Marketing Grant Scheme to develop its cheese processing facilities at its Dunman plant, the Minister said:

“This is an excellent example of investment aimed at ensuring continued success in both local and international markets. This new plant will facilitate the development of new products. I encourage other processors in Northern Ireland to keep abreast of developments and thereby secure the future for both themselves and supplying producers.”

Welcoming the Dale Farm expansion, Leslie Morrison, Invest Northern Ireland Chief Executive, said: “This is a significant strategic expansion for the food processing industry which remains one of our most important manufacturing sectors, particularly in predominantly rural communities.

“It will enable the company to invest in innovation and capability development, especially in new products, services and processes for international markets, that we are seeking to promote. Our Principles for Business Support offer companies a customised business solution to achieve sustainable growth.”