The Agri-Food Strategy Board has been given an extension to carry on working until May 31 by the Minister for Agriculture in the North, Michelle McIIveen.

Minister McIIveen made the announcement alongside the Economy Minister, Simon Hamilton, in order to allow the board make further progress on actions arising from the strategic action plan ‘Going for Growth’.

Since the board was appointed in 2012 it has been involved in the delivery of the Farm Business Improvement Scheme to help primary producers in moving their enterprises forward.

The board was also in receipt of the proposals from the Sustainable Agricultural Land Management Strategy Group and the TB Strategic Partnership Group.

Under the ‘Going for Growth’ strategic action plan the board has also overseen the establishment of the Agri-Food Loan Scheme as well as the opening of 49 new export markets since the launch of action plan.

Both Ministers believe that the Agri-Food Strategy Board will play a big role in helping the agri-food sector realise its potential.

The tenure of the current board was due to end on February 19, but the ministers have decided to extend the board’s tenure for a short period to enable further progress to be made on remaining aspects of its work.

This work will include the strategic marketing organisation and the livestock genetics data hub. The departments will continue to work closely with the industry in taking these important remaining actions forward.

Meanwhile, Minister McIlveen has also encouraged rural businesses to avail of up to £50,000 (€59,000) in grant funding that is available businesses based in the Lisburn and Castlereagh and Belfast City Council areas.

It is hoped that the funding will help businesses in the area to grow and create jobs.

The application window for the grant funding is now open, with grants of between £30,000 (€35,400) to £50,000 (€59,000) on offer.

Funding is available of up to £30,000 for new rural business start-ups and up to £50,000 for the expansion of existing rural businesses.