Food service industry has key role in supporting local food

Tuesday, 23 August, 2016

Ulster Farmers’ Union, deputy president, Victor Chestnutt says the food service industry has a key role in supporting local produce and helping to protect the viability of our farms.

Article key points

  • Food service industry has a key role in supporting local produce and helping to protect the viability of our farms.
  • Some food service companies are doing an excellent job marketing local produce.
  • However, others are not and are ignoring the benefits supporting Northern Ireland produce brings to the local economy, tourism and the environment,

Following a meeting with Lynas, a local food service company, Mr Chestnutt said that when we think about how food is produced and marketed by retailers, we perhaps forget that in the background there is a significant distribution network orchestrated by the food service industry.

He added that these businesses are key in getting food into the public sector, small retailers and restaurants. 

“Due to the nature of food labelling legislation, it is not always essential that the origin of the produce is displayed to the end customer.  Where this is not displayed people will naturally question whether these businesses, and indeed the public sector, are buying food produced locally or  simply food sourced from local companies but produced in other countries,” said Mr Chestnutt.

While the UFU recognises that some food service companies are doing an excellent job marketing local produce it says it is disappointed others are not doing so.  This ignores the benefits supporting Northern Ireland produce brings to the local economy, tourism and the environment, said the UFU.

“As we move towards leaving the EU, backing local food will be more important than ever.  With Lynas, we agreed that continuing to support initiatives such as the NI ‘Year of Food and Drink’ is important.  There are opportunities to build on this if government can invest more in local food promotion,” said Victor Chestnutt.  He added that as the cornerstone of the local economy, agriculture and food can continue to deliver more jobs if the right marketing strategy for the industry is pursued.