Northern Ireland wants to grow its food and drink industry by 40% and create 15,000 new jobs by 2020. The question is: how?
Once a lost cause, Northern Ireland’s image is changing, as both a tourist destination and a place to do business.
In the past year alone, hit TV series Game of Thrones and a new BBC adaptation of Nicholas Nickleby have been filmed in the province. Pop starlet Rhianna recently disrobed in a Northern Irish field for a pop video. Then there was the April opening of the £90m Titanic Visitors Centre in Belfast, expected to attract 400,000 visitors in its first year, and this year’s Irish Open, which lured 60,000 golf fans to the Antrim coast in June. And let’s not forget the impact of golf world numberone Rory McIlroy, the pride of the province.
The NI food and drink sector is also taking giant strides. Already the province’s largest industry, employing 92,000 people (29% of NI’s total manufacturing workforce), new figures out last week show the food and drink processing sector is now worth just shy of £4bn to NI, up 6.7% on the 2011 performance, which in turn was up 8.8% on the previous year, according to Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture & Rural Development (DARD).
The government’s support is also helping. In fact, it’s set up the newly formed Agri-food Strategy Board (AFSB), aiming to increase the sector’s turnover by 40% to £5.2bn, and create 15,000 more jobs by 2020. The question is: how?…