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Two north Clare food producers win top awards

TWO north Clare food firms scooped prestigious national awards this week. The Burren Smokehouse and Visitor Centre in Lisdoonvarna won the best producer accolade at the Good Food Ireland Awards, while Inagh Farmhouse Cheese won the Best Export Organic Product 2009 title at the National Organic Awards. The Good Food Ireland Awards lunch took place on Tuesday at The K Club, where the Burren Smokehouse was announced as the winner of the best producer award.
Birgitta Curtin-Hedin, smokehouse proprietor, served honey, lemon and dill hot-smoked Clare Island organic salmon and cold-smoked Clare Island organic salmon to guests at the event.
“It is fantastic to win this award. It is a very prestigious award. It is great to be part of Good Food Ireland. There are quite a number of producers in it and they are all very, very good. To be nominated is great but winning is really fantastic,” Birgitta told The Clare Champion.
Over 300 representatives from the food and tourism sectors including chefs, restauranteurs, hoteliers, farmers, fishermen and food producers from the four corners of Ireland attended the ceremony.
Guest speaker on the day was Ian Walker, skipper of the Green Dragon, who competed in the Volvo Ocean Race in honour of Good Food Ireland’s voluntary efforts in travelling all over the world during the race to feed the crew and promote Irish food tourism. 
“The objectives of the awards are to highlight places committed to local Irish food so that consumers can find out and make informed choices on where to go to eat out or stay in.
“Good Food Ireland is the only all-island organisation that brings together a club of like-minded, committed people across all sectors of the hospitality and food industry,” said Margaret Jeffares, managing director, Good Food Ireland
Doonbeg beat off two Clare businesses, The Burren Perfumery and The River Run Bistro, as well as four companies from Mayo, one from Tipperary and one from Galway, to scoop the Top Regional Member West Award.
Days earlier, St Tola Goats Cheese Log was named the Best Export Organic Product 2009 at the National Organic Awards.
Trevor Sargent TD, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, presented the Best Export Organic Product 2009 to Siobhán Ni Gairbhith from Inagh Farmhouse Cheese for its St Tola Goats Cheese Log.
The judges described the cheese as “simply fabulous”. In 2007, the same product won the Overall National Organic Product of the Year award.
Now in their third year, the National Organic Awards are recognised as an important feature in the organic food and drink industry calendar, which aim to recognise the achievements and raise the profile of Irish organic food and drink manufacturers.  Organised by Bord Bia, in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the 2009 Awards attracted more than 140 entries from organic companies nationwide.
Speaking at the event, Deputy Sargent said, “Sales of organic food are continuing to grow, increasing year on year by 13.2%, reaching a value of €124 million in the year to July 2009.
From these encouraging retail figures, it is clear that even in these hard times a considerable number of Irish consumers are buying organic products. But the word organic on the label is no longer enough to guarantee a market, people are also looking for top quality. There was no shortage of quality in the entries received again this year.”

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