NIFDA appoints new Chair

Nick Whelan calls for urgent government support for NI food and drink


The Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association (NIFDA) has appointed Nick Whelan as the new Chair of its board. Mr Whelan is Group Chief Executive of dairy cooperative Dale Farm and takes over from immediate past Chair Brian Irwin. He will hold the position for two years. George Mullan, Managing Director, ABP Northern Ireland has been appointed as Vice Chair.


Speaking after his appointment, Nick Whelan said:


“These have been extremely challenging times for all of us. Our workers in the food industry – our food heroes – have been working harder than ever to ensure that the nation continues to have access to safe, nutritious food. Companies have had to adapt to an ever-changing situation, responding rapidly to fluctuations in demand and transforming factories by implementing social distancing measures.


“The industry has demonstrated its resilience and its ability to innovate, but it remains a very difficult time. The loss of what we call the ‘foodservice’ market – restaurants, hotels, cafes, pubs, canteens – has led to serious stock and cashflow issues for many food manufacturers. Any short-term growth in demand from the grocery retail sector has not come close to making up the difference, and the government needs to step in and support firms before it is too late.


“Northern Ireland needs a strong food and drink sector if its economy is to recover from Covid-19 and face the imminent challenge of Brexit. We need a capital expenditure support scheme now, and grants should be given to support firms in investing further in automation, innovation and skills. Furthermore, the establishment of a food export marketing body is long overdue and should be an urgent priority for the Northern Ireland Executive.


“We have a world-class food and drink industry that feeds some 10 million people across these islands and beyond. I look forward to taking up the role of NIFDA Chair and will continue to champion Northern Ireland food and drink as we face our present challenges and look to future opportunities.”