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Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle. I fully support the promotion and purchase of local food, and my Department has carried out a range of actions to underpin that. For example, my Department administers the regional food programme, which aims to promote quality regional food. Under that programme, assistance is available to develop and expand profitable and sustainable markets by encouraging better co-operation and communication between all sectors of the food industry. That programme complements the work that my Department and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment have been doing to implement the recommendations of the ‘Fit for Market: Report of the Food Strategy Group: July 2004’.
I fully support the work of the newly formed Food Promotion Northern Ireland Limited (FPNI Ltd), an industry group representing a range of sectors that are taking forward and funding a domestic marketing campaign. FPNI Ltd aims to provide the highest levels of transparency for customers and consumers in identifying food and drink products. The funding made available under the processing and marketing grants will also provide better capacity.
The Livestock and Meat Commission is responsible for providing support to various sectors of the livestock industry, which is primarily achieved through strategic marketing initiatives that are complementary to the activities of the commercial operators within the sector — the Love Beef campaign was one of the most recent examples.
My Department is also contributing to the success of the renaissance of Atlantic food authenticity and economic links (RAFEAL) project, which aims to encourage local authentic food producers to develop new markets and thereby help to promote the use of local food as a firm foundation for public health, as well as ensuring that local food is brought to the attention of consumers.
I also intend to write to public-procurement bodies in the North, reminding them of the high animal welfare and productivity standards of locally-produced food. I continue to stress the benefits of the local food supply to the major retailers.