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O’Neill addresses major international conference in China

Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill today said that the high quality and safety of food and agri-food products from the north, underpinned by livestock and crop traceability, are the vital ingredients for export success.
Thursday, 26 September 2013

The Minister was speaking at the 4th Sino-European Agricultural Conference in Ningxia, China, in which she was one of the keynote speakers.

She said: “Despite the obvious differences in scale between the north of Ireland and China, agriculture is so important to both our regions and this is an excellent opportunity to explore areas of shared interest. Together we can achieve mutual benefit through trade, exchange and collaboration and I am committed to spreading the message about the strength and integrity of the agri-food industry in the north of Ireland.”

Minister O’Neill outlined that she was committed to the maintenance of high standards of food chain information, animal health and robust livestock traceability systems, and said: “There is a clear emphasis on traceability at the heart of our production and processing and I recognise that a joined up, safe and efficient food supply is essential to achieve our goals in terms of a sustainable and thriving agri-food industry. An effective food chain involves all partners, from the farmers to the consumer, and is designed to provide our customers with clear, reliable information about the food they eat.”

Reinforcing the importance of the agri-food industry to the north’s economy, Minister O’Neill stated: “In spite of a difficult global economic climate in recent years, our agri-food industry has continued to grow with sales rising from £3.75billion per annum to over £4billion in the last two years. These figures demonstrate the resilience of our food and drinks sector in the north of Ireland and its important contribution to our economy. Family farms are the backbone of our agri-food industry and, as we have such a small population, almost 70% of the food we produce is sold outside the north of Ireland. Therefore, our international reputation for food safety and sustainability is very important to our economy and to the livelihoods of our rural dwellers. I see tremendous potential for continued significant and sustainable growth for our large and small businesses.”

In closing, Minister O’Neill welcomed the opportunity to address this prestigious conference to build on the important relationships made between the north of Ireland and China over recent years and stressed her commitment to continuing this work for the gain of the north’s agri-food industry.

She said: “I represent a growing and reliable agri-food industry, which has excellent credentials for exporting superior product quality with high quality assurance standards. I believe there are opportunities for our agri-food industries and our institutions to work more closely together to help realise our ambitions to build export trade, to further our scientific knowledge through research and to deliver effective education and skills development programmes.

“My aim is to help turn the potential into reality, and I trust this important forum will serve as a step forward in building a long lasting relationship between the agri-food interests in China and the north of Ireland.”

Notes to editors:

  1. Minister O’Neill was invited to address this conference by the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC) who are key players in doing business in China.
  2. The Conference was held in Yinchuan City in the Ningxia Autonomous Region of China and attended by delegates from China and over 40 from Europe. Delegates included senior Government officials, academics and trade associations with an interest in sustainable agriculture and the production of safe food.
  3. Minister O’Neill met senior Government officials from Ningxia in a VIP meeting prior to the conference where she discussed areas of mutual interest.
  4. All media queries should be directed to the DARD Press Office on 028 9052 4619 or email: DARD Press Office. Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.