THE Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association (NIFDA) has appointed Professor Ursula Lavery MBE as the new chair of its board. 

Prof Lavery is technical and R&D director at Pilgrim’s Europe, including Moy Park, and she takes over from immediate past chair George Mullan.

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She will hold the position for two years. Simon Fitzpatrick, group commercial director at Coca-Cola HBC has been appointed as vice chair.

Speaking after her appointment, Professor Lavery said: “The food and drink sector is one of the most important economic assets we have here in Northern Ireland. 

“We are a £4.9 billion industry, representing 16% of the economy locally, exporting local food and drink globally.

“Across the wider supply chain we employ some 113,000 people, supporting local communities across the geographic spread of Northern Ireland.

“I am confident that with the right support, we can grow even further, and do so in the most sustainable way. 

“As an industry we want to build on our reputation for sustainability and play our part in addressing carbon emissions. 

“Across the sector, NIFDA members are introducing new processes and strategies to improve efficiency and move towards net zero.

“To further enhance sustainability and encourage innovation, we need investment. 

“For too long, food and drink firms here have faced a competitive disadvantage as the only jurisdiction on these islands without a government capital investment support scheme

“We have been engaging with ministers to encourage solutions that will level the playing field and equip our industry for further success.”