The Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association (NIFDA) has welcomed the publication of the Independent Strategic Review of the Northern Ireland Agri-Food Sector (ISRAF) report.

“We are grateful to the departments, Sir Peter and all involved in producing this report, which I hope will prove a significant blueprint for the way forward for Northern Ireland food and drink," said NIFDA chair Nick Whelan

"There is much within the 100 page report to consider, we will study its recommendations in full and engage with ministers over the coming weeks to consider the way forward."

The report, led by review team lead Sir Peter Kendall, explored the challenges and opportunities that the agri-food sector in Northern Ireland faces. The review team met with a wide range of stakeholders throughout 2021 and after considering a sizeable body of evidence, produced its findings and established a set of recommendations for both government and industry, under eleven themes.

"We have consistently argued that a capital support scheme for Northern Ireland processors is an urgent priority. We are pleased to see this critical need recognised by the review," Whelan continued.

"Our competitors in other parts of the UK and the Republic of Ireland are benefiting from substantial capital support schemes. Coupled with the lack of a Northern Ireland food export marketing body, the industry has effectively had to operate with both hands tied behind its back. 

“Similarly, we welcome the review’s support for a new Sustainability Body for the industry. With full collaboration across the supply chain, such a body would allow us to quantify the net impact on and contribution to the environment from Northern Ireland agri-food.

"As well as highlighting areas for improvement based on scientific evidence, it also would prove a powerful tool in sharing our sustainable credentials. 

“As the review highlights, collaboration will be key to addressing the short and long-term challenges our industry faces, from Brexit and pandemic recovery to inflationary pressures and contributing to Net Zero UK emissions.

"NIFDA is committed to new levels of partnership between farmers, processors and government departments, to encourage innovation, drive sustainability and grow our industry for the future.”