The agri-food sector is one of Limerick’s important indigenous industries. Historically, Limerick had a profile in the food, food processing and drinks industries in the city and county (Limerick Bacon Factory, Mattersons, Cleeves). While the large traditional industries are gone, industries in food production have expanded in recent years and new businesses have been created. Food and drinks businesses in Limerick include Ballygowan and Pallas Foods / Sysco Ireland – both with a base in Newcastle West. There is potential to further develop Limerick’s reputation for food and drink, by supporting local producers and promoting Limerick as a leader in sustainable food and agricultural systems.
There has been a growth in small businesses in artisan food in rural Limerick – supported by the Limerick Local Enterprise Office and rural development programmes (LEADER) offering specific supports for the – e.g., Ballyhoura Food Centre Hospital. The Limerick Milk Market, which is long-established and has been improved in recent years with a dome covering the inner core of the market area, draws large numbers into the city centre on the weekends for shopping, social meet-ups and cultural activities. Limerick has a rich local food heritage in its market towns. It has potential to revive and further develop farmers markets and other outlets to support local SMEs and food tourism. The Urban Coop (a social enterprise) located in sub-urban Limerick provides an outlet to sell local food produce.
Food security is becoming a more important consideration especially linked to supply chain difficulties, the impact of the war in Ukraine on distribution of grains, higher costs for transportation of food across global markets and the increased awareness of the negative impact on climate change of the current pattern of food distribution and trade.
At local community level, there is also a movement to develop local food supply – for instance, allotments, urban gardens, community gardens, Grow Your Own (GYO) initiatives in schools and communities, and community-based planting offering free food (e.g., orchards). Such initiatives support sharing of resources in communities and development of local markets. They can also have important health and well-being and social and community outcomes, bringing people together into local organisations / groups and building social capital.