AN ambitious new plan to develop Limerick’s food sector could result in the creation of almost 100 new jobs.
Members of the council’s economics committee were this week shown Limerick’s first ever food strategy, which contains a series of aims to make the county and city a premier destination for food tourism.
Aims include the creation of a local food producer directory, running a food showcase event and creating a centre of food excellence at the Limerick Institute of Technology.
Over the next three years, it is anticipated 85 new jobs are created, with the majority - 18 - in new food producer start-ups.
Independent councillor Emmett O’Brien said: “I want to see Limerick’s food sector – which was once the envy of the country - starting to move back towards its former glory when, for instance, our Limerick Ham was considered the best available in the English-speaking world.”
Councillors gave a welcome to the proposals.
Sinn Fein councillor Séighin Ó Ceallaigh said: “If people shop local, and the food stays local, the money stays local.”
The strategy aims to enhance Limerick’s reputation for great food and to build on existing support structures to develop a united food community.
Cllr Maria Byrne, of Fine Gael said more food festivals are needed in Limerick, with Cllr James Collins of Fianna Fail suggesting the quality of such events must be higher.
“Culture and Chips is great but I’m not sure how good chips are as a brand. I’m not criticising the shows, he said, “but we could do a whole lot better than a barbecue at Riverfest.”
Cllr Daniel Butler too, raised concerns.
“The results from a Google search on Limerick and food is appalling, it shows Justeat.ie at the top followed by other fast food outlets,” he said.
Cllr Collins said it is important not to “impose” this strategy on people.
But he did call for an events co-ordinator to be put in place by the council to ensure there is a single point of contact when organising festivals.
But he expressed concern about the lack of chefs in Limerick - particularly with the relatively low number of food graduates from LIT - and urged the importance of focusing on food related courses.