Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots and Economy Minister Gordon Lyons have today (Wednesday, January 26) announced the publication of the Independent Strategic Review of the Northern Ireland Agri-Food Sector (ISRAF) report.

The review, led by 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.

Announcing the report, Minister Poots said:

“I very much welcome this review which identifies the strategic priorities for the agri-food sector in Northern Ireland. The report produced by Sir Peter and his team is considered, demands our attention and I believe contains much that the industry will support.

“Given the many recommendations I want time to consider it fully. In the meantime, I would very much welcome comments and feedback from stakeholders across the industry. 

“I would like to thank Sir Peter and his team for the huge amount of work undertaken in a short timeframe and under the very challenging conditions presented by the Covid-19 related restrictions.”

“I too welcome Sir Peter’s report and would like to thank him and his team for a very comprehensive Review,” added Minister Lyons.

“I will be considering this report very carefully, and naturally will be paying particular attention to those recommendations which relate to the food-processing sector.

“It will also be important to consider the review in the context of my Department’s 10X Vision for the Northern Irish economy – delivering more innovative, sustainable and inclusive growth over the next decade.

“I would encourage stakeholders, from across the industry, to come forward with their thoughts and views on the review recommendations.”

The report

The report team has made a series on recommendations for government under 11 themes:

  1. Embrace the smart use of data and the opportunities it creates;
  2. Create a Northern Ireland diamond to deliver green growth;
  3. Demonstrate the sector’s sustainability through a new sustainability body;
  4. Be ambitious on net zero;
  5. Aim high on your environmental scorecard;
  6. Boost investment by large food businesses;
  7. Focus on trading arrangements beyond Great Britain;
  8. Tackle skills and labour supply;
  9. Innovate;
  10. Design an agricultural policy that drives change;
  11. Entice talent and entrepreneurship.

Team lead Sir Peter Kendall, who received his knighthood for his services to the agricultural industry in England and Wales, said this is a “game-changing moment for Northern Ireland agri food, which demands that our recommendations are worked on by everyone”.

“I’m not saying it will be easy; re-booting after Brexit, meeting climate change targets and repairing the environment are enormous asks,” he said.

“It can be done. The smart use of data can revolutionise the sector’s competitiveness and enable Northern Ireland agri-food to stand squarely behind a ‘best certified food in the world’ claim.”

The review report is available to view on the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) website.