Irish minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD, has announced a grant aid package of €4.4 million under the 2013 Scheme of Investment Aid for the Development of the Commercial Horticulture Sector funded under the National Development Plan (2007-2013).
He said he was "delighted to be able to continue to provide support for this exceptionally dynamic sector through the Exchequer’s funding of the scheme".
The package will provide grants to 175 commercial horticultural producers to assist in funding capital investments in specialist new equipment and facilities.
The grant aid covers all areas of the horticulture industry - field vegetables, mushrooms, protected crops, nursery crops, soft fruit/apples, cut foliage, Christmas trees, bulbs and bee-keeping - and will assist in funding investments by growers costing approximately €11 million between now and the end of the year.
Announcing details of the grant aid package, Minister Coveney highlighted the competitive pressures faced by the horticulture industry citing in particular "high input costs and especially energy costs, competitively priced imports, lack of scale and the dominance of the supermarket trade" as the main challenges facing Irish horticultural producers.
The exceptionally wet weather meant 2012 was a very difficult year for most sectors within Ireland’s horticultural industry and this has been compounded for many growers by the cold late spring this year. The Minister said despite recent weather difficulties he was "very much heartened to witness the level of interest and the number of high quality proposals submitted under the current round of this competitive grant aid scheme."
The Minister also said "given this is a competitive grant aid scheme the available funding has been targeted at those growers with the best potential for growth and competitiveness in accordance with Food Harvest 2020 recommendations."
Minister Coveney also outlined how excluding the value of potatoes, Ireland’s horticultural industry contributed €297m to the value of agricultural output in 2012 and concluded by saying "In addition the horticultural sector employs an estimated 5,000 people nationally both directly and indirectly. It’s vital for Ireland’s economic recovery that the Government supports this sector as it invests in building its long term production capacity."