Agri-food sectors to trail blaze North’s economy

Northern Ireland’s agri-food sector is predicted to experience an ‘above average’ growth of 3.8 per cent in 2014 and rank among the top five performing sectors this year, according to Danske Bank.

Speaking at the recent Danske Bank Agri Outlook Breakfast 2014 in Belfast, the organisation’s Chief Economist Angela McGowan said: “Our Danske Bank forecasts suggest that the local agri-food sector is set to grow by 3.8 per cent in 2014, which is above the predicted average growth figure of 2.4% across all sectors.  The improved global economy, a growing world population and an expanding middle class in Asia all present Northern Ireland’s agri-food sector with the opportunity to achieve high levels of export-led growth.

“In the years ahead this sector will truly benefit from its growing collaboration with local universities and colleges on issues such as skills, food traceability and technological development – all of which will further improve the sector’s competitive position.

“The local agri-food sector eagerly awaits the Northern Ireland Executive’s response to its proposed “Going for Growth” strategy and there is widespread recognition from all players across this sector that partnership with government on issues such as brand perception, removing barriers to growth and policy development will allow this sector to go from strength to strength.”

Delegates attending the event also heard from Danske Bank’s Head of Agricultural Relations John Henning, who agreed that, despite the significant challenges that 2014 could bring, the agri-food industry should continue to perform well this year.

Henning said: “While there is no doubt that 2014 will present its own challenges to the industry  here in Northern Ireland – not least in terms of the weather, but also fluctuating exchange rates, budgetary pressures, interest rates, retailer power or industry succession – I am confident that farmers and agri-businesses should experience a generally positive 2014.  The agri-food industry in Northern Ireland is strong, successful, capable and confident and I think this will reflect in the year ahead.”