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Horticulture in the Dail - Grant Aid: 13 Jun 2013: Written Answers

Terence Flanagan (Dublin North East, Fine Gael) 
173. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the grant-aid given to the horticulture industry for the past five years; if he has any proposed new initiatives to help the industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Simon Coveney (Minister, Department of Agriculture, the Marine and Food; Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
My Department provides grant aid and assistance to Ireland's horticultural industry through a number of schemes and programmes. The Scheme of Investment Aid for the Development of the Commercial Horticulture Sector assists development of the sector by grant aiding capital investments in specialised buildings and equipment as well as emerging technologies specific to commercial horticulture production. The Scheme's objectives are to improve the quality of output, to facilitate environmentally friendly practices, to promote diversification of on-farm activities and to improve working conditions. This competitive grant aid scheme provides aid at a rate of 40% (50% in the case of approved young farmers), payable on the accepted cost (excluding VAT), of capital investments approved and completed to the satisfaction of the Department. Over recent years the Scheme of Investment Aid for the Development of the Commercial Horticulture Sector has made a significant contribution to the growth and development of the horticulture sector across all areas; field vegetables, soft fruit, protected crops, mushrooms, nursery crops, apples, cut foliage and beekeeping. During the period 2008-2012, €16.2 million was paid out under the Scheme. This supported investment of approximately €40.5 million by growers over this period. Under the 2013 Round of the Scheme, I was pleased to approve a further €4.4 million in grant aid for 175 applicants. This will facilitate capital investments by these growers to the value of €11 million over the coming months. The Scheme for the Marketing and Processing of Certain Agricultural Products provides funding for capital investment. Payments to the horticulture sector under the Scheme amounted to €5.5 million for the period between 2007 and 2012 to support capital expenditure on horticulture processing investments and a further €1.7 million was paid during the period to support potato marketing and storage investments.

Support is also available to Irish growers through the Industry/ EU co-funded Promotion of Agricultural Products Programmes. These programmes cover aspects such as quality, safety, nutritional value or methods of production. The European Commission has approved two mushroom promotion programmes prepared by the trade and submitted through Bord Bia. A three-year €2.5 million programme to promote mushrooms on the UK market commenced in September 2010. The campaign “More to Mushrooms ” aims to address the decline in mushroom sales and to increase consumption by over 23,800 tonnes over three years by promoting their taste, nutrition and versatility. It is co-ordinated by Bord Bia and is funded 50% by the EU and 50% by the mushroom trade. To build on the success of the first programme and following my Department and the EU Commission's evaluation of a new proposal submitted by Bord Bia on behalf of the Irish and UK mushroom industry, the Commission decided this year to award 50% funding for a further €2.7 million three year mushroom programme “Just add Mushrooms ”. This will commence later this year and will promote mushrooms on the Irish and UK markets. In addition, financial support also continues to be available to those producers who participate in the Producer Organisation (PO) Scheme. This EU funded Scheme provides an important mechanism for growers to become part of a larger supply base, concentrate on marketing and to improve quality.

My Department also provides funding to Bord Bia and Teagasc towards their work for the horticulture industry. Bord Bia continues to provide support to operators in the horticulture sector to develop new markets by way of assistance in the areas of product innovation and marketing skills as well as organising the very successful Bloom festival, which in 2013 attracted 110,000 visitors. Teagasc, on the other hand, is actively involved in providing education, research and technical advice to the horticulture industry.

Source: HortiTrends News Room