Quality food and drink sales drive growth in exports
Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said quality food and skilled chefs are helping drive Northern Ireland’s economic recovery in exports and tourism.
The Minister was speaking during a visit to IFEX 2010 at the King’s Hall, Belfast today, where she launched the new Northern Ireland Culinary Organisation, an initiative of the Northern Ireland Professional Chefs’ Association, which is chaired by Suzanne Workman of the South West Regional College, in Dungannon.
Arlene Foster said: “The launch of the new body for professional chefs is a significant development that will support the excellent work already underway to ensure that Northern Ireland is recognised globally as a source of quality, innovative and wholesome food and drink.”
The body will provide members with a forum for their professional development and for an even sharper focus on the world class cuisine for local people and especially for tourists.
The Minister also met Sean Owens, Salon Director, IFEX Salon Culinaire and representatives of many local companies displaying food and drink products, during a tour of Northern Ireland’s largest international show for the food and drink, hospitality and retail sectors. Invest NI is helping to ensure success for companies by attracting leading food buyers from Great Britain and the Republic to the event and by setting up ‘meet the buyer’ opportunities.
The Minister continued: “Food and drink is strategically important to Northern Ireland’s economic development. The sector is now a £3billion industry, our second biggest manufacturing exporter and an employer of almost 18,500 people, mostly in predominantly rural communities. Some of our biggest companies and most successful exporters are to be found in food processing.
“Contributing 13.4% to manufacturing Gross Value Added and 15.1% of our export of manufactured goods, Northern Ireland food and drink is to be found in most global markets and on the shelves of virtually all of the world’s leading grocery retailers.
"Overall, IFEX is making a substantial contribution to the local economy through the marketing of local products and by means of its focus on developing our culinary talent and best practice in the hospitality sector, which is linked to the Northern Ireland food tourism agenda. Talented chefs are increasingly helping to shape the food industry by working with local companies on new product development and in their support for the marketing of local products abroad,” the Minister concluded.