Northern Ireland has the potential to be the world’s leading sustainable food producer, political leaders have been told.

This was the key message delivered by Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association (NIFDA) chairman George Mullan at the organisation’s 26th annual dinner.

ABP’s managing director for Northern Ireland also confirmed that, with the right support and a stable political environment, the north’s food and drink sectors can play a key role in meeting climate targets, growing the local economy and boosting UK food security.

He said: “One of the biggest challenges we face as an industry is the need to continue to feed a growing world population in the most sustainable way.

“Addressing climate change and reaching net-zero emissions is a key priority for governments globally, and an increasing concern for citizens and consumers.” 

NIFDA on sustainable food
NIFDA chair, George Mullan addressing the organisation’s annual dinner

According to Mullan, Northern Ireland food and drink has a proven track record when it comes to innovation, quality and commercial success.

“Across the entire sector, firms are already working to make this happen, developing more sustainable products and implementing strategies on farm and the factory floor to lower carbon emissions,” he explained.

“We are rising to the challenge. But we cannot do it by ourselves. Political stability is key, and we need a functioning executive back at Stormont with ministers to work with us and fight our industry’s corner.”

The ABP boss told the gathering that the UK government needs to fight for the interests of the UK’s food and drink sector at trade negotiations.

“Events of the past year have brought into sharp focus the importance of food security as the ongoing war in Ukraine continues to have an impact on the food system globally,” he said.

“With stable politics and the right support, we have the potential to lead the world on sustainability, address the balance of trade in food and boost the local economy in the process.”

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Chris Heaton-Harris MP, also attended the NIFDA event.

He said: “Northern Ireland’s food and drink industry plays a vital role in the Northern Ireland economy.

“The Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association carries out important work in supporting its members and strengthening Northern Ireland’s position as a leading producer of quality food and drink produce.”