MF Communication is a Belfast PR & Marketing Communications agency that provides corporate and brand PR and Marketing solutions to clients in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors. Services range from proactive marketing, PR and stakeholder relations to crisis communications and corporate reputation management.

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Storm Doris didn’t deter me from the prospect of a posh Ulster Fry breakfast at James Street South Restaurant and the opportunity to hear Danske Bank’s annual agri-economy outlook.

The bank’s Head of Agribusiness, Robert McCullough and its new Economist, Conor Lambe (apt name for the occasion) painted a mixed picture for a packed room of members of the Guild of Agricultural Journalists about what life could be like for our agri-food sector post-Brexit. With 1 Million Euro of cross trade done every hour of every day and 30% of our milk output travelling south the stakes are high when the UK government does deals on trade tariffs and the movement of people, goods & services. “The end of direct support payments” is a key concern, said Robert, who is a beef farmer himself, “but on the upside the exchange rate makes our food exports competitive. With 65 million mouths to feed in the UK there are opportunities to be grasped.”

The bank is encouraging its agriculture customers, like any other business, to develop a ‘can do’ attitude and embrace change by getting better at what they do well and focusing in on what’s working; as well diversifying to deliver alternative income streams as required.

Following on, Conor Lamb wasn’t any more optimistic. He pointed to volatility ahead and issues with the NI economy that pre-date the Brexit referendum such as the lowest levels of economic activity and productivity in the UK. With rising input costs resulting in price increases he also foresees an impact on consumer spending power. Overall a prediction of a feeble 0.3% growth in the agri sector in 2017 and 0.2% in 2018. Not much to celebrate - yet at least - for those who are ‘Just About Managing’ already then.

  

 

MF Communication is offering a recent graduate (past 3 years) the opportunity to become its 2016 Santander/Ulster University Intern. This is a bursary-paid position based in Belfast, for a minimum of three months initially. If you have a degree in Marketing or PR; or a Business degree with previous work/placement experience in a marketing or PR environment, I'd like to hear from you.

In the first instance, please drop a cover letter along with your CV to b.byers@ulster.ac and copy info@mfcommunication.net. The successful applicant will be a graduate with a demonstrable desire to pursue a career in PR & Marketing. A working knowledge and experience of online content development, social media and use of Google & social media analytics is desirable. You will also be able to demonstrate the following skills and attributes:

  • Excellent written and oral communications skills
  • High degree of accuracy and attention-to-detail
  • Full computer literacy and fluency in use of Microsoft Office Suite (inc. Excel spreadsheets)
  • Good organisational and analytical/ research skills
  • A confident, outgoing manner and ability to establish a rapport face-to-face and on the telephone
  • Integrity & honesty

Preferred qualifications & experience:

  • A third level qualification/s in a relevant discipline e.g. digital marketing; marketing; business studies; entrepreneurship; CAM or
  • A third level qualification in a non-related discipline but with previous work experience in a PR/marketing or digital marketing role

 You should be able to start the role immediately but flexible working hours can be arranged. It would be helpful but not essential that you have both an interest in or knowledge of the agricultural sector as well as a full, clean driving licence with access to a car

 

 

It was a wet and windy start for the NI Agri-Guild Business Breakfast briefing in Ulster Bank’s Belfast head office. But at least we arrived to hear some good news, well as a mum of two hungry teenage boys at least. The bank’s popular measure of food price inflation, compiled by its Chief Economist, NI, Richard Ramsey, showed that the collective cost of items in a traditional cooked breakfast have fallen by 8.5 per cent in just 12 months. This makes the cost of these items the cheapest they have been since October 2008, according to the index. But whilst the collective price of these breakfast items is at its lowest in over seven years, looking over the longer-term Mr Ramsay revealed they are some 26 per cent dearer than they would have been 10 years ago, and 37 per cent more expensive than in April 1998. 

Our assembled group of agricultural and business journalists and agri-food industry professionals were told that “food makes up a significant proportion of household spending and food and drink is also a key sector of the Northern Ireland economy. So understanding how the prices of food stuffs are changing gives us some insight into both the current state of consumer finances, and also some of the challenges facing the agri-food industry.”

There was no getting away from the fact that households have been benefiting from low or no inflation, falling food and energy prices, wage rises, and historically low interest rates, describing it as a sweet spot for consumers. 

However appetising as all that sounded, Mr Ramsay had some not-so-tasty ‘tit bits’ to share with us on the rate of recovery of UK economy and the performance of the farming sector within that. He revealed a picture of weak recovery (only 2% year on year growth in real terms) with total income from farming down 42%.  

He finished by outlining the PR fiasco around the Chancellor’s latest budget announcement on welfare cuts ending in the resignation of Ian Duncan Smith. His conclusions were that the UK’s finances “were in a mess” and that we were vulnerable to any negative economic shock such as a Brexit Yes vote which could...

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