T5. Ms Dolan asked the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, who will be aware of the recent decision of the Rural Women’s Network to close for two weeks, citing workload and limited resources as key issues, whether he agrees that the pandemic has amplified the urban/rural divide on matters including access to services, broadband and opportunities to work from home for key workers in industries such as food processing. (AQT 1355/17-22)
Our food processing sector continues to grow, and we are delighted to support it in so many ways. I have just launched a significant investment in the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE). The greater part of that investment, some £43 million for the Loughry campus in Cookstown, is in food processing. We are absolutely committed to ensuring that rural communities do not suffer as a consequence of not having the same opportunities. DAERA is contributing to Project Stratum some £15 million of the overall package of £200 million, and that has been delivered as a result of the confidence-and-supply deal done by the Democratic Unionist Party. That will help to ensure that people in rural communities are not disadvantaged, and it will show that we care about them.