Agri-food rises from ashes of recession

By David Wright

Agri-food rises from ashes of recession

While various sectors within the local economy remain in the doldrums, this is not the case for an agri-food industry which continues to buck the recessionary trend.


Speaking this week in Templepatrick, Economy Minister Arlene Foster described agri-food as a ‘real stalwart’ within the local economy. With the food and drinks industry now the largest manufacturing sector in NI, contributing £3 billion to the local economy, the Minister said she believed there was even more growth to come. Her aim is to make local food companies more competitive to facilitate growth through rising exports.

The positive feel within the agri-food industry is being reflected in numbers enrolling on agri-food courses provided by Cafre.

Provisional figures released this week show a virtual doubling of students on full-time agriculture and food courses since 2006. The numbers of first year students undertaking full-time agriculture-related courses at Greenmount is up 84% since 2006 to stand at 193. The numbers of first year students studying on full-time food-related courses at Loughry is up 133% since 2006 to stand at 91.

There is also an expectation that numbers applying to part-time agriculture related courses will see a significant increase on previous years. Exact final numbers will not be known until mid-October.

A DARD spokesperson described it as ‘a major turnaround’ in demand for courses in agriculture and food on the back of a strong performance of agricultural production and food processing through the economic downturn.


The call from industry that it needs more well qualified young people to realise its potential is also thought to be a factor, along with the high cost of studying in Britain.

A process of recruiting new staff into Cafre is underway, as the college seeks to fill a number of vacant posts. It is now eight years since the last general round of recruitment of technical staff into the Department.


A survey of graduates from Cafre in 2010 revealed that 96% of former agriculture and food students were in employment or undertaking a further education course six months after completing their course.

This figure is thought to compare very favourably with other institutions and disciplines.

Despite the difficulties in the Irish equine sector, the anticipated enrolment on full-time equine courses is expected to be slightly above the 10-year average.

The new first year enrolment on full-time horticulture courses (50 students) is slightly below the 10-year average.

via Farm – Farming – Agri-food rises from ashes of recession.

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