Predictions For 2014 Put The Agri-Food Sector At Top Of Our Table

Northern Ireland’s agri-food sector is set to be one of the top performing industries in 2014, according to Danske Bank.

It will grow by 3.8% this year, as global export opportunities swell on the back of an increasing world population and an expanding middle class population, chief economist Angela McGowan said.

Ms McGowan was speaking yesterday at Danske Bank’s Agri Outlook Breakfast 2014 in Riddel Hall at Queen’s University Belfast. She said Northern Ireland’s unique collaboration in the agri-food industry bodes well for the future.

“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,” she said.

And a collaborative approach with government is also needed to meet heady growth targets.

She added: “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… will allow this sector to go from strength to strength.”

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

“I am confident farmers and agri-businesses should experience a generally positive 2014,” he said.

Mr Henning also highlighted a number of key insights from last week’s Oxford Farming Conference, which took the theme ‘Opportunity Agriculture’.

“A useful barometer of the level of confidence and enthusiasm could be seen in the number of younger delegates at this year’s conference,” he said.

“However, there was a consensus that the industry needs to focus more on farm structures in the future.”

Mr Henning explained that the power of social media in agriculture was also a prominent theme at the OFC.

“There was much focus on the enormous potential for social media to change the way in which farmers do business, with targeted use of the most appropriate social media channels encouraged to help farmers and food businesses to ‘fish where the fish are’,” he added.