The 2021 Scheme of Investment Aid for the development of the commercial horticulture sector has opened.
The scheme, which covers horticultural areas from field vegetables, mushrooms, protected food crops, amenity crops, soft fruit, and apples, to beekeeping, aims to facilitate environmentally friendly practices, promote the diversification of on-farm activities, improve the quality of products and improve working conditions.
The announcement was made by the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with special responsibility for Horticulture, Senator Pippa Hackett and will allow for a €9m investment in the sector - a 50% increase on last year.
“As a country, we simply must grow as much of our own food as possible,” said the Minister. “But in what is an increasingly technology-heavy sector, finding the finance to keep up with imports, or even get started can be very challenging.
“I have secured an extra 50% for next year’s investment scheme; the money will be made available to established growers and new ones alike, and I expect it to make a big difference to a sector which has huge potential.’’
The horticulture sector generated output with a farm gate value of almost €477m in 2019, with an estimated 6,600 employed full time in primary production activity and a further 11,000 employed in value added and downstream businesses.
The industry, according to the Department, “continues to be very dynamic, where growers and producers are constantly increasing their competitiveness and improving sustainability through the adoption of lean technologies and energy-efficient systems”.
“The additional funding is a recognition of the capacity of the industry to expand market share while addressing both the challenges and opportunities created by Brexit,” Minister Hackett continued.
“It also underlines the Government’s continued commitment to the horticulture sector.”