£10 million of funding has been secured for a new beef research centre for the Agri-Food and Bioscience Institute (AFBI) in Northern Ireland.
AFBI's beef facilities were voluntarily withdrawn from its specialist research licence in August after staff deemed the facilities no longer fit for purpose.
An outline business case was approved later the same month, however, the announcement this week marks the first official confirmation it will get the go-ahead.
Beef research centre to be shared with CAFRE
Speaking in Stormont on Tuesday (May 11), Minister Poots said the facilities would be shared with the College of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE).
Poots said the £10 million for the new beef unit was in addition to the £75 million investment announced last week for CAFRE campuses.
"Those new facilities will integrate the future development of research, technology transfer and education at AFBI and CAFRE, which will assist in the delivery of my green growth initiative. In order to ensure that the Northern Ireland beef industry has a vibrant future as a trading sector, we must keep pace and compete on the world stage," he said.
The current beef facilities at AFBI and CAFRE are no longer fit for purpose. Investment in new beef facilities will ensure that AFBI and CAFRE have the capacity to carry out leading-edge research and demonstrate technologies in order to support the delivery of education programmes and underpin beef farms across Northern Ireland for the next 30 years.
"Those new facilities will be critical to ensuring the positive contribution of beef production to the management of the rural environment and to supporting the rural economy. The project will provide multiple long-term benefits for the Northern Ireland beef industry, agri-food industry and wider economy.
"I also welcome the fact that the design and construction of the new buildings will be environmentally sustainable and will enhance the well-being of all who use, live and work in them."
'Long lobbied for'
Pat McKay, the recently-appointed Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) beef and lamb chair said: “The UFU have been lobbying for new facilities at AFBI for over 10 years now and at long last, funding has finally been allocated to create modernised resources at both AFBI and CAFRE.
"NI farmers produce beef to the highest animal welfare and environmental standards, we have a fantastic reputation across the world and to ensure we remain on the global stage as world-leading beef producers, we need to have appropriate research facilities to support the sector. To date, we were being left behind.
“The new beef facilities at AFBI and CAFRE will have substantial benefits for our relationship with retailers and new export customers, as we will be able to showcase why beef produced in NI is so sought after, in appropriate and efficient facilities - not to mention when hosting visits with consumers and beef producers from other regions.
“We now ask DAERA, CAFRE and AFBI staff to work collaboratively to ensure we can progress with the next stage of developing the new beef facilitates as quickly as possible.”