Written Answers. - Food Industry.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

66 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development the specific programmes, if any, in place or planned to improve the product range of food companies with a view to developing sustainable market outlets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4704/00]

There are specific food-related initiatives set out in the National Development Plan 2000-2006 designed to assist product development. Those initiatives provide for a total public funding allocation of £282 million and will be implemented as part of operational programmes that are being prepared.

The action outlined in the national development plan provides a cohesive and comprehensive response to the needs of the food industry. It takes account of the recommendations of the food industry development group and the beef task force. The emphasis will be on competitiveness and market orientation. In this context, there will be a focus on added value and on the need to enhance the innovative capabilities of the industry. The indicative public funding allocation of £83 million for research and development will, in particular, assist innovation and product development. Allied to the support that will be provided in the areas of capital investment, marketing and promotion and human resources, I am confident that it will assist the industry to meet the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead in an increasingly discerning market.

The food industry has demonstrated its adaptability in recent years. The growth in exports of prepared consumer foods from £398 million in 1994 to £975 million in 1999 indicates an aware ness of and responsiveness to the needs of the market. That progress was assisted greatly by the support made available under the 1994-99 food sub-programme. The initiatives outlined in the national development plan reflect the experience under the sub-programme and will allow the industry to build on that success.