Locfood Workshop Set to Boost Food Sector

LOCAL food producers in County Down will have the opportunity to present their foodstuffs to delegates from 13 organisations in nine European countries.

The European representatives will be arriving in Newcastle, County Down, in September to find out more about how Northern Ireland’s food companies can build the local economy.

As part of the European INTERREG IVC transnational ‘LOCFOOD’ project (Local Food as an Engine for Local Business), Down District Council and the University of Ulster Business School will be welcoming European economic development officials, tourism and food specialists to a two-day workshop to be held in the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa, Newcastle,to discuss how to best support companies in the food sector in Northern Ireland and across Europe.

“The food sector is an extremely important part of our local economy,” said Councillor Mickey Coogan, Down District Council Chairperson.  “It is our largest manufacturing sector, with great potential for growing exports, and it is a really significant part of the tourism experience, so important for the economy in rural areas like ours.  This workshop and study visit is looking at how we can better help smaller local producers to play their part, and make local food an engine for local business.

“We are really pleased to be hosting this transnational exchange providing the opportunity for European delegates to meet local policy makers from the food sector and to visit local food producers around our fantastic Mourne Mountains.”

During the workshop delegates will also discuss food policy issues in Northern Ireland with an invited Expert Panel, drawn from key government departments. The Expert Panel will include Tony O’Neill, Chairman of the Agri-Food Strategy Board, with questions facilitated by Joris Minne, restaurant critic of the Belfast Telegraph. With the Agri-Food Strategy Board currently calling for evidence to shape its future strategy, the workshop is happening at an extremely opportune time and should provide more than enough food for thought for delegates and policy makers alike.

Dr Adele Dunn from the Ulster Business School’s LOCFOOD project team said: “With the Agri-Food Strategy Board currently calling for evidence to shape its future strategy, the workshop is an opportune time to discuss how food policy can better support the needs of small local food businesses with our European partners, local businesses and regional policy makers.”

The second day of the visit includes a study tour around County Down to local food producers to see at first hand local products from smaller producers in the area and to find out more about small producers’ experience of developing their business.

The LOCFOOD programme is a 3-year project mapping smaller European food producers and their experience, funded by the European Regional Development Fund under the INTERREG IVC territorial co-operation programme, aiming to identify best practice in supporting and developing smaller producers in the food sector.