Call for NI to urgently set up food manufacturing capital grant
Michael Bell, executive director, NIFDA.
Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association (NIFDA) has reiterated its call for the Department for the Economy to set up a processor capital grant for the food manufacturing sector in Northern Ireland as a matter of urgency.
The call follows the announcement of a €100m capital investment scheme by the Republic of Ireland government with a 30% support rate for RoI food manufacturing companies. Wales, Scotland and England already have similar schemes in place with support rates of between 20-40%.
The fact that Northern Ireland companies cannot avail of such funding puts them at a significant competitive disadvantage, according to NIFDA Executive Director Michael Bell.
“We have spent three years lobbying for this grant and despite our best efforts the process was halted last summer following the rejection of a proposal submitted to the Assembly,” said Bell. “There were 15 or more business cases submitted to Invest Northern Ireland. Most of these cases were delayed while our competitors are marching on with the backing of their respective Governments and repositioning themselves with our customers.
“Our closest competitors also benefit from significant funding for food export marketing, which again we do not have. This is competitive disadvantage in the starkest sense. This weakness is obviously further magnified with Covid-19 and Brexit.
“A capital grant scheme will drive innovation, productivity and enable the Northern Ireland Food & Drink Industry to win value-added business.
“This is a priority that is also understood by our farming community and the UFU have been steadfast with NIFDA in highlighting this weakness to the Department of the Economy here in Northern Ireland. This is our most urgent and clear ask. We therefore call on Minister Dodds to urgently address this strategic weakness our industry has been subject to here in Northern Ireland.”