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Food companies to be at centre of economic recovery

Export-focused food companies will be at the centre of Northern Ireland’s economic recovery, experts from Ulster Bank emphasised at a briefing event for agriculture, food and business journalists.

Outlining the Bank’s commitment to supporting the agri-food sector, Ulster Bank’s Head of Business and Commercial Banking, Northern Ireland, Ian Jordan, said that the sector is a major bright spot for the local economy and will continue to perform strongly by tapping into export opportunities.

Mr Jordan was joined at the event by the Bank’s Head of Corporate and Institutional Banking, Northern Ireland, Kenton Hilman; Chief Economist, Northern Ireland, Richard Ramsey; and Senior Agricultural Manager, Cormac McKervey.

The event, in the Bank’s Belfast headquarters, was organised as part of the build up to Ulster Bank’s principal sponsorship of the Balmoral Show 2012 (May 16-18), and was attended by members of the Guild of Agricultural Journalists as well as other members of the media.

The briefing included a presentation by Cormac McKervey on the performance and outlook for farming businesses and an economic overview by Richard Ramsey.

Supporting farmers and food companies alike
Ian Jordan welcomed journalists to the event where he outlined Ulster Bank’s commitment to supporting farmers and food companies and desire to grow the Bank’s market share in the agri-food sector. Kenton Hilman highlighted Ulster Bank’s continuing support for some of Northern Ireland’s largest and most successful food processors.

Commenting, Ian Jordan said: “We are delighted to be the principal sponsor of the Balmoral Show for a fourth year. The sponsorship is an indication of our commitment to the agri-food sector, which is a major driver of the local economy with significant potential for growth.”

Chief Economist, Richard Ramsey, added: “Whilst inflation remains a significant issue, the agri-food sector continues to benefit from strong demand, unlike many other sectors which are battling with rising inflation and falling demand. Global food demand is increasing rapidly, so in addition to continuing strong demand in the home market, there is also a huge market for Northern Ireland in export markets.”

Food price inflation
Highlighting the challenge of food price inflation, Richard Ramsey continued: “Interestingly, whilst the cost of items that make up an Ulster fry has seen a sharp increase (37%) since summer 2007, some healthier options have been less impacted by inflation. The cost of bananas has increased by just 8% and the cost of grapefruit has increased by just 11%. Similarly, whilst the cost of a white loaf has increase by 41% in the period, the healthier option of a wholemeal loaf has increased by 10% less (31%). And an incentive to eat your greens; the cost of broccoli has fallen by more than any other item in the period since summer 2007.”

Ulster Bank is the principal sponsor of the Balmoral Show, which takes place this year from May 16-18. This is the fourth year of Ulster Bank’s principal sponsorship of the Balmoral Show, which it announced in 2009.

Further information about the RUAS Balmoral Show is available at: www.balmoralshow.co.uk

Further information about Ulster Bank’s products and services is available from: www.ulsterbank.co.uk

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