Posted on Wednesday 14 May 2014 by Ulster Business

Stephen Coveney Agriculture Minister for Ireland

Stephen Coveney, the Republic's Minister for Agriculture who was speaking at Deloitte's event.

The agri-food industries in Northern Ireland and the Republic need to work more closely together to grow exports in the years ahead.

That's the view of the Republic's Agriculture Minister Stephen Coveney speaking last night ahead of the start of the Balmoral Show who said an all-island marketing approach would benefit both economies by driving overseas sales.

"Buyers in China don't know the political intricacies which exist on this island and don't care," he told an audience at an event in Hillsborough Castle organized by business advisors Deloitte, pointing to the Far Eastern region as one where huge potential lies for produce from the Republic and Northern Ireland.

But to be able to achieve a boost to sales to China and to other export destinations, he said closer collaboration between the governmental agricultural departments both sides of the border are needed to standardize quality, husbandry and traceability.

He used one example in the beef industry where cattle reared in the Republic are taken to Northern Ireland to be finished and slaughtered - earning them the nickname "nomad cattle" - as a loophole which can hinder the marketing process.
And the minister didn't stop at calling for collaboration just with Northern Ireland.
He also said the rest of the UK could benefit from having a more joined up approach with the Republic when it comes to winning export business.
Mr Coveney was speaking to around 80 bosses from some of the biggest food companies in Northern Ireland at the event.

He agreed with comments made by United Dairy Farmers chief executive Dr David Dobbin who, speaking in his role as chairman of sector body Northern Ireland Food and Drink, said the agri-food industry across the island of Ireland should mimic the setup in Irish Rugby, competing against each other internally but forming a joint approach when competing for export business.

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