That’s the view of Food Minister Brendan Smith, speaking after a meeting with the IFA Apple Growers Association on the farm of Con Traas in Cahir, Co Tipperary.
Mr Smith said that apple production represented a small but important sector within the Irish horticultural industry.
“We have about half a million apple trees grown on 1,500 acres producing over 11,000 tonnes of apples, which are worth close to €3 million,” he said.
Mr Smith said that while eating and cooking apples represent the main varieties grown, there has been a steady increase in the quantity of cider apples over the past decade and these now account for about a quarter of production.
There is also considerable potential for the development of local artisan cider production on farms, which is common in other EU countries.
“High quality, locally produced artisan cider would fulfil a niche market and tie in with the growth in farmers markets which are providing the ideal shop-window for everything that is best in Irish food and drink,” he said.
The minister said he would provide every possible help to apple growers and strongly encouraged them to apply for support under the schemes operated by the department in the horticulture sector.
“I want to see Irish apple growers availing of this support to grow their sector and capture the market opportunities which undoubtedly exist.”