The Irish Seed Savers Association, which protects and conserves heritage seeds, vegetables and fruit, says its closure is inevitable if it doesn’t raise €250,000 to replace the Government funds it has lost in recent years. It says the project, based in Scarriff, Co Clare, is unsustainable without Government support.

Its marketing co-ordinator Geraldine Tobin said funding, from the Department of Agriculture has been drastically cut. “We’ve really been treading water frantically for 18 or 24 months. Every cut has been extremely difficult. We’ve tried everything from cutting as much as we can off daily operational expenses, to cutting staff hours and wages. Those cutbacks have been coupled with a decrease in sales and workshop bookings, giving us a typical perfect storm.”

“In short, our funding, which was previously as much as €250,000, has been cut to €147,000 which is over 40 per cent,” she added.

The association maintains a seed bank containing more than 600 rare and endangered vegetable varieties. Its native apple collection has more than 140 varieties while a native Irish grain collection has 48 varieties. The association has also set up a colony of hives with the native black bee. It runs workshops and hosts school tours and sells seeds, trees, flowers and plants to the public.

Ms Tobin said the protection of heritage seeds was “vitally important” work for the State. “A seed bank is a really important piece of infrastructure as it contains, should the need arise, emergency seed stocks.”