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Northern Ireland’s food producers needs our support as they adapt to the new norm and continue to trade, DAERA Minister Edwin Poots MLA has said.

Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Edwin Poots MLA said: “There is no doubt that the temporary closure of the restaurant, hotel, airline and food services trade has had a massive impact on Northern Ireland’s agri-food sector, but although our food industry has lost business in some areas, it has adapted to new ways of working and trading since the Covid-19 pandemic was declared.

“Northern Ireland’s food outlets, including convenience stores, supermarkets, food-to-go and takeaway sector, have taken considerable steps to put social distancing measures in place and keep food on our plates.

“Two metre markings, limiting numbers and putting up protective perspex screens, has allowed our convenience and supermarket outlets to protect their staff and protect the public.

“I’d like to remind people that many food-to-go outlets and takeaways are also open, in the same way as other retail food outlets. They are using things like click and collect, online ordering and delivery channels only, to ensure they adhere to social distancing rules.

“I’d like to thank the NI food industry for adapting in this way and I’m sure this serves to reassure the public that they can purchase food safely from convenience stores, supermarkets, food-to-go and takeaways outlets.

The Minister concluded: “I know we are all staying in and cooking at home more, which supports the retail trade, but don’t forget that by buying from your local food-to-go or takeaway, you are also helping our agri-food sector to get through what is an extremely difficult period.

“Food is an essential part of our lives and we must continue to support our local food industry to ensure it will be profitable and sustainable in the long term.”

Aodhán Connolly, Director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium said “Our members, should they be supermarkets, convenience or food to go and takeaways, are proud to support the NI agri-food industry. Retailers buy over £2.7billion of quality Northern Ireland produce each year and we want to play our part now.

“We are working hard to ensure that appropriate measures are in place to protect our staff and our customers which is our first priority. Food-to-go can open in a way that meets the demand from NI households and support our agri-food industry. It is wonderful to have the Minister’s support throughout this crisis and while reopening food to go can take several weeks to get supply chains up to speed, we are sure it can be done safely.”