The Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association (NIFDA) has appointed George Mullan as the organisation’s new chairman.

Mullan is managing director of ABP in Northern Ireland and takes over from Nick Whelan.

He will hold the position for two years.

Ursula Lavery, technical and R&D director Europe with Moy Park, has been appointed to the position of vice chair.

Both take over their new positions at a time of significant flux for the food industry in Northern Ireland. Input costs are fast increasing across all sectors of the agri food economy at the present time.

In turn, this is holding out the prospect of food inflation rising exponentially over the coming months.

The Northern Ireland Protocol and the need for a ‘soft landing’ between the UK government and the EU, with regard to its future implementation, will be another NIFDA priority over the coming months.

Approximately 80% of the food produced in Northern Ireland is exported, either to other regions of the UK or beyond.

The lack of a functioning Stormont Executive at the present time will provide additional challenges for Northern Ireland’s food and drink industry.    

Speaking after his appointment, George Mullan was quick to address this latter point.

He said: “This is a pivotal time for Northern Ireland food and drink as we seek to continue to grow the sector while navigating our way though the challenges of sustainable growth, climate change, food inflation and supply chain issues.

“We cannot address these challenges alone. Progress areas will require investment and collaboration with stakeholders and all levels of government.

“We need to get the new [Stormont] Assembly up and running, and for ministers to be appointed to champion the industry at this pivotal moment.

“Food and drink is a key strategic sector in the Northern Ireland economy. We are the largest single manufacturing industry here, generating £4.9 billion value added, and supporting 113,000 workforce jobs across the supply chain,” he added.

“We feed 10 million people worldwide, and our industry is world leading when it comes to quality, innovation, sustainability, animal welfare and commercial success.”

The new NIFDA chair said that he is confident that the NI food and drink sector can boost its growth, build upon its sustainability credentials and play a key role in Northern Ireland’s economic recovery with the right level of collaboration between industry and government.