Northern Ireland Good Food, Taste of Ulster, Ulster Farmers' Union, supported by funding from DARD's Northern Ireland Regional Food Programme, have come together to urge local business professionals that getting off to a good start makes sound business sense.
As part of the eleventh annual Farmhouse Breakfast Week 2010, organised by the Home Grown Cereals Authority (HGCA), a special Business Breakfast was held at the newly refurbished Ulster Museum on Tuesday 19th January. Guests were treated to a sumptuous breakfast made from Northern Ireland home grown produce and received a special address by Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster. Other speakers included UFU President Graham Furey and John Cunningham of the HGCA Board.
Speaking at the annual UFU Farmhouse Business Breakfast, the Minister described it as "a celebration of an industry that is at the very core of Northern Ireland's economy and one that never fails to deliver on quality and eating experience." The breakfast, she said, highlighted the importance of building a strong partnership between farmers and processors aimed at satisfying the requirements of consumers for the type of quality, healthy and safe food provided by the agri-food industry in Northern Ireland.
Arlene Foster said: "Food and drink here is one of relatively few sectors in any UK region to exhibit growth last year. Output grew by 10%, and additionally the sector displaying significant employment growth year on year of 2.9%. As a result of a strategic focus on developing new markets, Northern Ireland is now among the biggest suppliers of food and drink to Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland. Products worth more than £600million are also sold to markets outside the United Kingdom. When sales to Great Britain of more than £1.5billion are included, the proportion of goods sold to customers outside Northern Ireland rises to more than 60%. Overall it provides 15% of manufactured goods exported."
"This strategically important industry is now worth almost £3billion per annum and employs 19,220 people in processing a very broad range of food and drink. In addition, the industry has a strong commitment to innovation and currently contributes 14% to manufacturing Gross Value Added. Companies, both large and small, are now competing and winning because of the quality, wholesomeness and originality of their products and the strength of their commitment to excellent customer service."
Highlighting significant export successes, the Minister said: "In the red meat industry, companies generated annual sales in excess of £1billion, selling around 40% of output to major European retailers including Carrefour and Auchan in France, Albert Heijn and Jumbo in the Netherlands and Spain's Mercadona. The skills embedded in both our large commercial bakeries and small home bakeries means the traditional and innovative breads favoured on local breakfast tables are now being sold successfully throughout Great Britain."
UFU President Graham Furey added; "This event was set up to encourage our guests to get into the healthy breakfast habit and to enjoy and celebrate the excellent range of local, high quality breakfast foods available across Northern Ireland. It's also important to remember that farming is already contributing strongly to economic activity in Northern Ireland and we often forget the wide range of top quality products that are available to local consumers.
"I would also like to thank the producers who contributed to this event - White's (part of Fane Valley), Punjana, Rosebank Jersey Milk, Irwin's Bread, McCanns Juices, Hughes Mushrooms, Skea Eggs, Dale Farm and the Ulster Pork and Bacon Forum."
Michele Shirlow from Northern Ireland Good Food and Taste of Ulster continued; "This demonstrates the abundance of good food available in Northern Ireland, and it was a privilege to work with the partners to create Northern Ireland's version of the Farmhouse Breakfast."
John Cunningham HGCA Board Member concludes; "The HGCA Farmhouse Breakfast event is now more relevant than ever with recent Government policy concerns on food security, the promotion of wholesome, local, sustainable food production and better education of the link between good diet and good health."
Farmhouse Breakfast Week is supported by retailers, producers, schools, restaurants, cafes, hotels and farmer's markets, so there's no excuse for not getting out there and benefiting from the best meal of the day - breakfast!