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Minister Smith brings successful Regional Food Forum concept to the Midlands

Speaking at the opening of the Department of Agriculture and Food's 3rd Regional Food Forum in Portlaoise, Co. Laois this evening, Mr. Brendan Smith T.D., Minister of State with responsibility for Food and Horticulture said that he was delighted to see this very successful format rolled out in the Midlands. The forum aims to support and expand the development of local and regional food production in the counties of Carlow, Laois, Offaly, Tipperary and Westmeath and is the third in a series of six that will cover every region in the country.

The Regional Food Forum, organised by the Department of Agriculture and Food in conjunction with Bord Bia, is a unique opportunity for local food producers and support agencies to come together. The evening featured presentations on marketing opportunities and regional food ingredients, a questions and answers session with local food entrepreneurs together with opportunities for producers to meet the development agencies and to showcase their products.

Minister Smith said "a fully consolidated approach towards developing the food sector is a central component of the Government's vision for the future of the agri-food sector. I am particularly pleased to have this opportunity of bringing together so many producers and agencies to work together in further developing the strengths of our diverse food industry, which underpins so much of the regional economy. Tonight's event complements at a regional level the work being done by the high-level food agency CEO 2015 group that was established recently with a similar joined-up approach in mind".

The theme for the evening was "Emerging Market Opportunities for Small Food Enterprises" and the Minister identified the small and speciality food sector as an area of considerable growth potential in the coming years. The need to add value to the food we produce through innovative and consumer-focussed entrepreneurs was well recognised throughout the food sector.

Minister Smith added "this entrepreneurship has long been exemplified by local and regional food producers dotted around Ireland and it is incumbent on us policy makers to help nurture these wonderful businesses and food products - products such as those we see on display here this evening. It is with this in mind that I am pleased to announce that Bord Bia will shortly publish a guide to the speciality retail market in Ireland. Producing the right product is only the first step on the road to success, increasing product exposure and generating demand are also key success factors. This very comprehensive guide will assist producers in achieving the right result through targeting the appropriate retail channels and gaining a foothold in the marketplace".

The success of the previous North-West and North-East Fora which were held in Killybegs and Carrickmacross respectively has ensured its roll-out on a national basis and Minister Smith announced that the next Forum to cover Eastern counties would take place in Kilkenny in November, with two more to follow in the South and West in the new year. In this regard he encouraged all producers in these regions to get involved and take advantage of the opportunities being provided.

6 September, 2006

Note for Editors

Food companies in Carlow, Laois, Offaly, Tipperary and Westmeath were invited to attend and regional produce from a selection of these companies was showcased at the event. The various development agencies and service providers involved in the food industry also attended.

The evening consisted of two presentations by industry experts followed by a panel discussion involving speakers who have developed food-related businesses. Significant time was also allocated for networking and agency showcasing. Food producers had the opportunity to meet with State agencies and service providers such as Bord Bia, Enterprise Ireland, Irish Leader Network, County Enterprise Boards, Teagasc, etc.

Presentations

"Emerging opportunities for speciality foods" - Muiris Kennedy, Director of Corporate Marketing Services, Bord Bia
"Authentic Irish Ingredients: An island of Regions" - John McKenna, Food Writer and Author

Panel discussion

Peter Ward, Country Choice Nenagh & Taste Council Chair
Breda Maher, Cooleeney Farmhouse Cheese, Thurles
John Purcell, Goodherdsmen, Cahir
Cathal O'Donoghue, O'Donoghue's Bakery, Tullamore

Date Released: 06 September 2006