Hopes are high that a major new food incubation centre – the second only in Northern Ireland – could be located within the ABC borough, Armagh I can reveal.
The development would be the council’s latest effort to support the agri-food sector and will be a huge boon for cross-border activity.
A single centre – or a series of small centres dotted across rural areas within the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon borough – is very much on the agenda.
The only such centre at present is based at CAFRE and is very much in demand.
This project – if it gets the Stormont nod – will go forward as a joint scheme in partnership with Roscommon LEADER.
The Southern Organisation for Action in Rural areas (SOAR ABC) Local Action Group (LAG) was formed to deliver £8.02 million through the Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 in the rural areas of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council.
During this period, the Department of Agriculture, Environment & Rural Affairs (DAERA) will support special projects – led by LAGs – as part of the implementation of their LEADER Local Development Strategies.
Participation in Co-operation Activity is a mandatory element of LEADER in the Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme (NIRDP).
As part of the Local Rural Development Strategy 2015-2017, the SOAR (ABC) LAG has committed to supporting at least two Northern Ireland/Republic of Ireland co-operation projects.
It is bringing forward three – the first of which will be the food incubation centre proposal.
This project is a partnership with Roscommon LEADER in the Republic.
The overall vision is to develop a food incubation centre or number of centres across rural areas within the Armagh Banbridge Craigavon (SOAR) area to support and create further development opportunities for the agri-food sector in the Borough.
This will support the sector and enhance already established activities.
This project initially will investigate the development of a number of incubation centres or ‘kitchens’ and associated marketing, avenues to markets and links between the Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland food business.
It is hoped to encourage trade between both markets and strengthen distribution channels.
At present there is only one food incubation unit at CAFRE for the whole of Northern Ireland and evidence has demonstrated that there is great demand for another.
Councillors, in a briefing on the proposal, have been told: “The development of a food incubation centre would fit strategically with council objectives to support this sector and develop the value added potential opportunities.
“A pre-development application has been submitted to DAERA in January 2017 and they responded that they were content with the SOAR (ABC) LAG to proceed with this proposal on behalf of the council area.”
The quotation process started at the end of last month and, when complete, an application and procurement will go to DAERA and the LAG for assessment and then implementation.
It is hoped to present that application before the end of March.
A full application for a capital build is then expected some time between July and September.