A £3m food innovation centre has been officially opened in Northern Ireland (NI) in the latest move to boost the development of the country’s argi-food sector, building on current efforts to secure new export outlets around the world, including a major push to gain access to the Chinese market for NI pork processors.
NI agriculture minister, Michelle O’Neill, opening the new centre at Loughry Campus, Cookstown, said the project creates the opportunity to develop “world class innovative products to meet the ever-changing demands of the consumer”.
“It is important that the sector is positioned to exploit market opportunities, supplying the right products at the right price and the right time,” she said. “Food innovation is a key driver for growth of this area so this new state-of-the-art centre is essential in our drive for economic growth here.”
In addition to headlining the opening of the new domestic resource, Ms O’Neill has also revealed her commitment to NI’s food export ambitions.
“I am hopeful that 2015 will prove exciting in terms of furthering new market access across all meat sectors,” she said during the recent Balmoral Show, adding that in relation to the pigmeat sector she would continue to use “every lever available” to progress pork export negotiations with China.
“I welcomed the two inspection team audits of our pork processors in April which represented a significant milestone in the approval process,” she said. “I have visited China twice and I am again packing my suitcase to return next month (June) and will use the opportunity to build on the important relationships established to date by thanking the Chinese authorities in person for visiting the north. I am hopeful my visit will maintain momentum on the approval process.”
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