Posted on Thursday 18 October 2012 by Ulster Business

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Dr Adele Dunn (University Of Ulster Business School), Lynsey McKitterick ( University of Ulster Business School), Councillor Anne McAleenan ( Chair, Down District Council Cultural and Economic Development Committee), Councillor Mickey Coogan ( Chairman, Down District Council) and Vincent Duffy (Head Chef, Slieve Donard Resort and Spa)

Delegates from 13 organisations in 9 European countries arrived 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 INTERREGIVCtransnational ‘LOCFOOD’ project (Local Food as an Engine for Local Business), the Ulster Business School and Down District Council welcomed European economic development officials, tourism and food specialists to a two-day workshop 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.

During the workshop delegates discussed food policy issues in Northern Ireland with an invited Expert Panel, drawn from key government departments. The Expert Panel included Tony O’Neill, Chairman of the Agri-Food Strategy Board, with questions facilitated by Joris Minne, restaurant critic of the Belfast Telegraph.

Dr Adele Dunn from the Ulster Business School’s LOCFOOD project team said: “With the Agri-Food Strategy Board having recently called for evidence to shape its future strategy, the workshop was 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 food sector is an extremely important part of our local economy,” said Councillor Mickey Coogan, Down District Council Chairman.  “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 looked at how we can better help smaller local producers to play their part, and make local food an engine for local business.  We were 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.”

The second day of the visit included 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 INTERREGIVCterritorial co-operation programme, aiming to identify best practice in supporting and developing smaller producers in the food sector.

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