Belfast flour miller Nigel McLoughlin, of James Neill flour mills, has been awarded a prestigious Gold Medal by the National Association of British and Irish Millers (nabim).

The accolade, which is the first medal of its kind to be awarded for a decade, was earned after McLoughlin came top in specialist examinations, taken by 600 students across 30 countries in five continents.

Nabim has been running training courses for millers for more than 100 years, with students from all over the world.

McLoughlin also successfully completed a project looking at technical improvements in the flour mill. Duncan Monroe, nabim president, congratulated him on his achievement in Belfast.

“The success of Nigel and his predecessors, who have won the medal since it was first awarded almost a century ago, helps to sustain the most technically advanced flour milling industry in the world,” Monroe said.

“That, to this day, blends craft and technology to produce superb flour used in an enormous range of delicious food.”

James Neill has been milling flour in Belfast for 150 years and is a major supplier to bakeries throughout Ireland.