Already a £5 billion contributor to the local economy, a year celebrating food and drink in Northern Ireland has whet the appetite for sustained growth within the industry beyond 2016.
A current running success, the Northern Ireland Year of Food and Drink will ultimately be judged on its legacy and the impact it can have across the sector not just for 2016 but for the foreseeable future. Over the past decade the food and drink sector in Northern Ireland has being growing rapidly with the initiative aiming to promote, improve and widen the food and drink sector to become the heart of Northern Ireland tourism.
Food tourism generates around £350 million every year for the local economy and as visitor numbers to Northern Ireland from overseas continue to rise, the wider catering industry has seized upon an opportunity to broaden their reach to global markets. Although focused on food and drink the initiative has stimulated positive growth among a wider range of players from farmers, processors, bakers, brewers and distillers through to the hospitality sector. The year-long celebration has used food and drink as a vessel to attract visitors but also allow them to enjoy Northern Ireland’s heritage, landscape, culture and people.
Growing, catching, breeding, crafting and cooking have all been celebrated in the first six months of the year and more of the same is expected until 2017.
July will mark a celebration of all things coast, river and lake, highlighting Northern Ireland’s seafood produce. In August the attention will turn to meat, promoting goods from pulled pork sandwiches to Irish beef and lamb. Baking and bread is Septembers headline honing in on the resurgence in baking talents and October is the month of the harvest, celebrating local farmers and produce. November’s feature is legacy and learn, turning attentions to ensuring skills are passed on through cooking schools and demos, while in December the focus will be on Christmas and the best local goods to help with the festive feeling.
Here are just some dates to mark on the calendar
- The Irish Game Fair and Fine Food Festival, 25-25 June, Co Antrim
- Hillsborough International Oyster Festival, 30 August-4 September, Co Down
- Comber Earlies Food Festival, 25 June, Belfast
- Fermanagh County Show, 2-3 August, Co Fermanagh
- Northern Ireland potato festival, 1 October, Co Antrim
- Heart of the Glens Festival, 6-14 August, Co Antrim
- Naturally North Coast and Glens Market, 23 October-4 December, Co Antrim
- Annual Christmas Cookery Demonstration, 2 December, Co Fermanagh