Copyright: Michael Cooper
Alastair Hamilton, Invest NI Chief Executive, centre, pictured with, left, Ismael Chacon Fuente, Grupo Embadajores, Madrid, one of Spain's leading meat buying companies, and John Carson of Dunbia in Dungannon. Mr Hamilton welcomed a 9-strong of major meat buying companies to Northern Ireland to explore business opportunities with local beef and lamb processors.
Beef and lamb suppliers are being assisted by Invest Northern Ireland to pitch for business from seven leading Spanish meat companies this week.
Invest NI is hosting a visit to Northern Ireland by 10 senior managers from seven companies which supply leading supermarkets, butchers, hotels, restaurants and canteens across mainland Spain and the Balearic Islands.
The delegation, which had been scheduled to visit Northern Ireland in May but had to postpone because flights were disrupted by the Icelandic ash cloud, will be exploring business opportunities with eight local meat suppliers, from 21-24 September.
Included in the Spanish group is Consum, a major supermarket chain that will be familiar with Northern Ireland holidaymakers to the Spanish costas. Valencia-based Consum had sales of around £1 billion in 2009 and has a 600-strong network of modern supermarkets which supply fresh and vacuum-packed meat to shoppers in the Cataluna, Valencia, Murcia, Andalucia and La Mancha regions.
The Spanish companies, which cover key population centres such as Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Palma de Mallorca, had total meat sales of over £150 million in 2009 and most are visiting Northern Ireland for the first time.
The Spanish delegation is the latest in a series of meat buying missions to Northern Ireland arranged by Invest NI as part of its longstanding commitment to assist local companies increase sales of beef and lamb to other parts of Europe.
Invest NI has organised visits here by meat companies from France, Italy, Denmark and Sweden, and the Benelux region. Northern Ireland meat companies have also taken part in visits to these markets arranged by Invest NI.
Alastair Hamilton, Invest NI Chief Executive, welcoming the Spanish delegation to Belfast, said: “We are delighted to have attracted such an important group of potential buyers from a major European marketplace which continues to import significant volumes of beef and lamb products from external suppliers.
“I am confident that the delegation members will be impressed by the outstanding quality and tremendous value for money that our companies offer and will include them in their respective supply chains.
“The visit is very timely because it follows the recent publication of a major independent study, commissioned by Invest NI in association with the Livestock and Meat Commission, of the opportunities and also the threats that will develop for our beef, poultry, lamb and pigmeat sectors, particularly in Europe, over the next 20 years.
“This is a strategically important industry that currently generates around £1 billion annually to the local economy and is a key source of employment in rural communities across Northern Ireland.
“The report by the GIRA consultancy on the Long-Term Strategic Trends in World Meat Markets pinpointed opportunities likely to develop in Europe and the measures our companies need to take to expand their sales.
“This visit by such an influential business group of leading suppliers to the retailing and foodservice sectors will enable our companies to show the range the provenance and traceability of their products, their modern processing facilities and efficient logistics operations. They will also have an opportunity to discuss with the Spanish companies how they can meet their requirements.
“Invest NI will continue to assist the industry to expand its sales of existing and new products through such ‘meet the buyer’ events and other activities including participation in next month’s SIAL international food industry exhibition in Paris.
“We will also continue to encourage and support our companies to focus resources on measures that increase efficiency, productivity, innovation in areas such as higher value added products for niche markets, and strengthen their overall competitiveness in European and other global markets,” he added.
In addition to the ‘Meet the Buyer’ event, the Spanish companies will be able to visit the processing plants of local companies.