The Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with special responsibility for Horticulture, Senator Pippa Hackett, has announced the opening of the 2021 Scheme of Investment Aid for the Development of the Commercial Horticulture Sector.
Giving details of the Scheme, which is a competitive one open to all horticultural sectors, and which will provide capital grant aid at a rate of 40% to all approved investments, the Minister said:
"As a country, we simply must grow as much of our own food as possible. 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. That’s why I am I am delighted to 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 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. Announcing that the closing date for receipt of applications for the 2021 scheme is the 18th of December 2020, the Minister added:
"This 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. It also underlines the Government’s continued commitment to the horticulture sector. This is a sector which employs over 17,000 people either directly or indirectly, it is one which we must both protect and develop. That is why I look forward to this funding helping in a variety of ways, from maintaining ongoing supply to domestic markets , to increasing import substitution, to supporting potential expansion into new markets. And I look forward to all of this being delivered while also facilitating environmentally friendly practices”
The horticulture sector generated output with a farm gate value of almost €477 million 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 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.