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Minister Coughlan welcomes EU Reform of the Fruit and Vegetable Sector

The Minister for Agriculture and Food, Mary Coughlan T.D., speaking today from Luxembourg where she is attending the Council of Ministers meeting said that the agreement reached on the new fruit and vegetable regime will bring considerable benefits to Irish producers, consumers and the horticulture industry in general.

Minister Coughlan said that the fruit and vegetable sector is a very dynamic entity of the agricultural economy having grown by 18% so far this decade and with considerable potential for further growth. Farm output of fruit and vegetables last year was valued at €220m, while the value of all retail sales including imports was close to €900m.

The Minister said that three aspects of the new regime will directly benefit Irish growers and consumers and the wider horticultural industry namely:

  • Support for Producer Organisations (POs)
  • Adoption of new Promotion Measures
  • Inclusion of Fruit and Vegetables and potatoes in Single Farm Payment
Producer Organisations

The Minister said that the EU Producer Organisation Scheme which is at the core of the reform measures will play a key role in underpinning the future development of a competitive Irish fruit and vegetable sector. The new measures will now provide greater flexibility in addition to increased funding of 60% of the cost of some of the eligible actions involved in producing and bringing the product to the market. Organic production will be one of the actions which will get the higher EU support levels. There will also be flexibility in the number of members and the turnover required to form a PO. Measures which will enable the PO to prevent or deal with market crisis situations is another key element of the reform package.

"The new scheme provides growers with the necessary support to meet higher quality and environmental standards in the market place where the multiples now handle some 80% of the retail sales of fresh produce. The scheme will empower producers to work together to form a larger supply base and work as more equal partner with these multiple retailers".

Under the current arrangements Irish Producer Organisations have benefited from EU funding of €24m since 2000 with the bulk of this funding paid to mushroom POs who have a very high grower participation level. The uptake by other growers has been disappointing to date.

Promotion Measures

Minister Coughlan welcomed the promotion measures included in the reform package and the further funding being made available. She was particularly pleased that the Commission referred to the Irish 'Food - Dude' programme as a model for other Member States to follow. This programme which will be rolled out to 250 schools in Ireland by the end of 2007 encourages school children to develop a taste and appreciation for fruit and vegetables which is proven to remain with them as consumers.

"We have gained considerable knowledge of the effectiveness of school based promotion through our 'Food Dudes' initiative; the response from the pilot scheme was so encouraging with children who participated consuming significantly more fruit and vegetables, both at school and at home that I decided to roll out the programme to a wider base this year with substantial additional funding of €4m being provided this year" she said.

Single Farm Payment

Minister Coughlan also welcomed the inclusion of potato areas and fruit and vegetable areas under the Single Farm Payment System from 2008. She said that she had also secured a resolution to the problem of unused entitlements for potato growers for 2007. "This removes some anomalies and market distortions associated with the current arrangements and I am pleased that these have now been overcome".

In conclusion Minister Coughlan said that concurrent with achieving agreement on a new fruit and vegetable regime, the launch of the NDP scheme for the horticulture sector to cover the period 2007 - 2013 was also imminent. "This scheme which remains to be cleared at EU level sets an ambitious plan for the sector involving State support of approximately €50m which should leverage capital investments at farm level of the order of €130m. It follows on from the previous NDP programme 2000-2006 which provided €20m to horticulture growers and made a key contribution to the development of our modern horticulture industry".

12 June, 2007

Date Released: 12 June 2007