Applications for funding for projects aimed at raising the profile of quality regional food in the North will be accepted from Friday, January 20.

The funding will be made available through the Northern Ireland Regional Food Programme (NIRFP), according to the Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Michelle McIlveen.

The 2017/18 programme is a DAERA-funded programme, with successful projects set to receive financial assistance of up to 40% of expenditure against eligible project items.

This is an important funding programme within the food and drink sector in the North that encourages collaboration between all sectors and representative bodies within the local food industry, the Minister said.

In previous years, the programme has supported many local events and initiatives right across Northern Ireland.

In particular the programme offered in excess of £300,000 (€341,000) to 24 projects during the ‘Year of Food and Drink 2016’.

The Minister hopes that the newest edition of the programme will continue the successful legacy of the ‘Year of Food and Drink’ initiative.

In 2016, the programme helped fund projects such as the Twilight Market at St George’s, the BBC Good Food Show and the Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend, Minister McIIveen said.

It also assisted a number of local agricultural shows in the North to introduce a local food exhibition as part of their offering, she added.

Applications for projects that are set to take place between April 1, 2017, and March 31, 2018, will be welcomed from Friday, January 20, onwards.

Meanwhile, the deadline for applications is set to close at 12pm on Tuesday, February 14. 

Applications will be welcomed for projects contributing to the legacy of the 2016 initiative.

The aim of the programme is to promote quality regional food and to help increase its consumption by provision of financial support in three key areas.

These key areas will include seminars or workshops, information programmes and regional fairs or exhibitions.

Awards will be made on a competitive basis and only those applications that are judged to have best met the programme objectives will receive funding.

Projects that have received funding from the programme in the past will have to demonstrate additional development to be awarded further funding.