Shane McEntee, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, today announced a grant aid package of €4.1 million under the 2011 Scheme of Investment Aid for the Development of the Commercial Horticulture Sector that is funded by the National Development Plan (2007-2013).
The package will provide grants to 157 horticultural producers to assist in funding capital investments in specialist new equipment and facilities. The grant aid covers all areas of the horticultural industry – including field vegetables, mushrooms, protected crops, nursery crops, soft fruits/apples, cut foliage and bee-keeping/others – and will assist in funding investments of approximately €10.2 million between now and the end of the year.
Minister of State McEntee said “It’s most encouraging to see the level of confidence that currently exists within the horticulture sector as demonstrated by the number of high quality projects that have sought assistance under the Scheme. This is further evidence of the potential that exists within the Irish agri-food industry”.
The horticulture industry experienced a very difficult year in 2010 due to the unprecedented severe weather conditions which in many cases were coupled with strong downward price pressure from the retail trade. He stated that “I am pleased to be able to allocate grant assistance to projects which provide protection against severe weather and also to meet a number of the recommendations in Harvest 2020, in particular in relation to product and production innovation and also in relation to the uptake of green technology”.
The Minister continued by stating that despite short-term difficulties, it was vital for the industry to continue investment in order to meet the competitive pressures the industry currently faces. These pressures arise in particular from high input costs, competitively priced imports, lack of scale and limited development in innovation. Pointing out the value of the sector and its contribution to the economy, the Minister highlighted that, “the Irish horticulture industry contributed an estimated €280 million to the value of agricultural output in 2010 and provides, both directly and indirectly, an estimated 5,000 jobs nationally with many further jobs being generated in distribution, processing and marketing. It’s vital that the industry receives the support it requires to allow it maintain and further increase its contribution to the Irish economy”.
The Minister concluded by urging the public to check Country of Origin each time they purchase fresh fruit, vegetables or plants. “By seeking Irish origin produce we are supporting Irish producers, Irish jobs and making the strongest contribution to the Irish economy while also getting excellent value for money through the purchase of high quality products that have been produced and delivered with minimal impact on the environment” he said.