Ulster Bank Head of Northern Ireland, Ellvena Graham, welcomed Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment, Arlene Foster MLA, and Dr Chris Brown, Senior Director Sustainable Business for retailer Asda, to the Ulster Bank lunch in the Balmoral Show’s main marquee
Graham, Ulster Bank’s Head of Northern Ireland, said that the region’s food and drink sector is well-placed to go from strength-to-strength, and can become an even more important driver of the local economy, but will need access to finance for growth. Ulster Bank is committed to provide that support, enabling agri-food companies to capitalise on the potential.
Speaking at the Balmoral Show, Ireland’s largest agricultural and food show, Graham pointed to the UK’s trade deficit in food and growing global demand for produce like red meat and dairy as opportunities for the sector.
“Agri-food is a vital and growing part of the Northern Ireland economy, sustaining up to 92,000 people in employment, according to one estimate,” she said. “It contributes roughly twice as much to the Northern Ireland economy in percentage terms as it does to the UK economy, and it has the potential to add more jobs and more value.”
Graham said that working alongside the industry, government and other stakeholders, Ulster Bank has a vital role to play in helping enable this to happen.
“Alongside demand, one of the main drivers of the future success of the local agri-food and drink sector will be access to finance for growth. Ulster Bank has £1billion to lend to businesses this year, and the agri-food sector is a key priority.
“We are already a major lender to the agricultural sector, to food processors, to the wider agri business and food and drink industries, with many of Northern Ireland’s largest and most dynamic food companies amongst our client-base. Of course, we are fully committed to further growing our involvement in and support for these sectors,” she added.
Ulster Bank is the principal sponsor of the Balmoral Show. It has been involved in the Show for many years, and became the Show’s first ever principal sponsor in 2009.