MEPs urged to support pioneering food export programme
‘Inter-regional collaboration is delivering results – but political support is vital if Northern Irish/Scottish/Irish food companies are to realise their long term potential in the pan-European market’.
This was the message for newly elected MEPs from those responsible for delivering Access 6 – the EU INTERREG IVA-funded export development programme which aims to boost food sales across three key EU regions (NI, Scotland and Ireland) by £19million.
The call for support was issued by Michael Bell of the Northern Ireland Food & Drink Association (NIFDA), who joined forces with John Whelan of the Irish Exporters Association (IEA) and Amanda Brown of Scotland Food & Drink (SF&D) at the Leuven Institute for Ireland in Europe yesterday (4 June) to launch Access 6 in the Benelux market.
Benelux is the latest of six market-specific clusters to open its doors to some of the 90 food & drink SMEs from across Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland who are participating in the Access 6 programme. It follows previous launches in Berlin, Paris, London and Stockholm.
A densely populated, highly consumer-driven market, Benelux’s retail and foodservice market is worth €75.6billion. Viewed by the industry as the ‘gateway to the continent’ it includes some of the top names in retail and food service, including Albert Heijiin, Carrefour, Van de Valk and Centre Parcs.
Five NI-based food companies have identified Benelux as a key target and will be among the first to work with the Access 6 mentors and channel partners to capitalise on the lucrative opportunities it presents for their businesses.
Over the next 12 months, Glens of Antrim Potatoes (Cushendall), Dragon Brand Foods (Strabane), Rademon Drinks (Crossgar), Kay’s Kitchen (Armagh) and Hilden Brewery (Lisburn) will embark on a programme which includes training, mentoring and study tours, with the ultimate aim of winning business in Benelux’s successful retail and foodservice sector.
Speaking before an audience of industry stakeholders and politicians, Michael Bell of NIFDA said: “The European Union was built on the principals of collaboration and co-operation and these same principals are reflected in the Access 6 programme.
“Activating Access 6 in Benelux, which is the logistics gateway to hundreds of European regions, ensures consumers throughout the continent have access to food and drink with the integrity, quality and value they demand. We encourage our MEPs to consider how this very successful and innovative project can be further enhanced in the future so that it will continue to deliver economic development and prosperity to peripheral regions. ”