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The security of our food supply lines during Covid-19 is a priority for the Executive and Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots MLA has put in place a series of actions to protect it.

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has recently been appointed as the lead for Northern Ireland’s Food Security and has developed an initial action plan outlining its approach, which will be cross-cutting with a number of other Departments.

DAERA Minister Edwin Poots said: “Covid-19 has highlighted the importance of our food chain, at a local, national and international level. Our local supply lines are quite secure and food is moving well off-farm and onto our shelves. There is more than enough for us all, given that NI produces enough to feed 10 million people across the globe.

“The current situation has, however, highlighted the need to look at this issue on a system-wide and coherent basis, to keep food on our shelves. Our priority as an Executive is to put in place measures that secure supply lines for the food we import into Northern Ireland from the UK, EU and the rest of the world.

“My Department has developed an Initial Plan on Food Supply outlining what success looks like, the risks, the roles all NI Departments need to play in achieving success and our next steps. We are also developing a Food Observatory to continuously assess the health of the food system, with a view to encouraging and supporting measures to maintain its flexibility and resilience.”

Food Supply is about the management of risk along the entire food chain, including: the import of raw materials such as animal feedstuffs; food processing; distribution and consumption, food availability, access, affordability, safety, nutrition and quality, resilience and confidence.

The Minister continued:If we have learned one thing from the current crisis, it’s that we shouldn’t take the supply of food for granted. In the future we will continue to refine this approach and I am sure that the entire Executive will play its part in securing our food chain.

“I’d like to once again thank our local food heroes, from our farmers to those working in production, distribution and retail. You are the reason that we haven’t experienced any major interruptions to our food supply lines. Your hard work and dedication to producing high-quality, local food is unparalleled, and I am extremely grateful.

“Farmers in particular are facing challenging times as a result of Covid-19, but they are also a key part and driver for economic growth, as has been demonstrated during previous times of crisis. We must do all we can to protect this sector and ensure it’s sustainable and profitable in the long term.”