New Zealand the focus for local agri-food industry

The biggest ever agri-food sector mission from Northern Ireland will visit New Zealand, from 23 January to 3 February, as part of Invest NI’s drive to fast track the development of world beating food innovation and global brands by local companies.

Over an eight day period the 25-strong innovation and best practice mission to New Zealand will split into three separate delegations to conduct more than 70 meetings in all parts of New Zealand with the country’s major red meat, lamb, venison and dairy food processors, farmers, industry associations, research institutes and universities.

Included in the Northern Ireland delegation will be leading industry figures including chief executives of Northern Ireland’s biggest dairy and red meat companies, and leading industry representatives from the Ulster Farmers Union, Livestock and Meat Commission, Northern Ireland Meat Exporters Association, Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association, National Sheep Association, National Beef Association, as well as officials from the Department for Agriculture and Rural Development and Invest NI. Almost three quarters of the red meat and lamb sector by turnover in Northern Ireland is represented and half the dairy processing industry.

Announcing details of the mission, Maynard Mawhinney, Invest NI’s Food Director, said: “New Zealand, like Northern Ireland, is, of course, an island economy in which food processing is among the most important industries and the biggest export earner.

“New Zealand also faces similar problems as Northern Ireland does arising from a peripheral position and a small domestic marketplace.

“The three strand mission, (covering red meat, dairy and primary producers),  will be tasked with bringing home some of the best practice, knowledge, and innovation that has made New Zealand a world class exemplar in terms of a small nation ‘punching above its weight’ in the global food industry – an achievement Invest NI wishes to help our companies emulate.

“The group will have an opportunity to see how New Zealand food processors are addressing global challenges and ensuring sustainable long-term growth through techniques including export-focused branding, which has seen their red meat and dairy brands such as New Zealand Lamb and Beef, Anchor and Golden Churn dairy products, and Manuka Honey, become global household names.

“Northern Ireland has a number of very successful international food and drink brands. We want to encourage and assist many more companies to recognise how they can increase margins and future-proof themselves against volatile markets by investing in new and innovative branded products,” he added.

Almost 70 per cent of food and drink products are now sold to markets beyond Northern Ireland.  The region is now a major supplier of dairy, beef and lamb, poultry and bakery products to Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland.

Many leading European retailers, including Marks and Spencer, Sainsbury, Waitrose, Tesco and Carrefour, now source a range of products from Northern Ireland suppliers. These retailers are also engaged with Northern Ireland food companies on the development of innovative products for specific market requirements and trends, including healthier meal options.

Among the region’s most successful markets are Europe, the US and the Middle East. Companies involved with dairy products, the second biggest sector after beef and sheep meat, also supply milk powder to customers in Africa and Asia Pacific.