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The Member and many others in the House will know that, on 27 October, the Minister announced that the farm business improvement scheme's business development groups would reopen to dairy and pig farmers in the middle of November. The business development groups bring farmers together to share knowledge and skills to help them to make informed decisions about adopting new technologies and developing their businesses. This additional tranche is aimed at dairy and pig farmers because, as the House will know, farm-gate prices for both sectors have been below the cost of production for a significant time. Further details on the reopening of the business development groups scheme will be published in the coming weeks and will be made known through the farming and agriculture press.
The Minister is in very regular contact with the pork industry and is aware of its export aspirations. She is working very hard on an ongoing, regular basis to target access to key strategic markets, including her mission to China. She is there at the moment, which is why she is not here. She gets to go to China, and I get to come here and talk to you. The world is ill divid, I think. She is there, of course, to promote the best of what Northern Ireland has to offer and to help to move forward the final approval for export of Northern Ireland pork to China — and a very lucrative market it is anticipated to be. There are estimates that it could be worth an additional £10 million to the pork industry in Northern Ireland. Given where prices have been for some time, that would be a most welcome boost to the industry here in Northern Ireland.
Prior to leaving on her mission to China, the Minister met the chief executive of the Northern Ireland Pork and Bacon Forum, who indicated that the industry was very supportive of her mission, as am I, not just generally but particularly in my role as Economy Minister. It is incredibly important that we begin to look beyond not just our own region and the British Isles but well beyond Europe, particularly to strong and emerging markets such as China. That is particularly true for the agri-food sector, for which there are huge opportunities in markets such as China and elsewhere.