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Minister Sargent announces grant aid of €9m for horticultural growers

Mr Trevor Sargent T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, with special responsibility for Horticulture today announced a grant aid package of €9.4m under the Grant Scheme for the Development of the Horticulture Sector under the National Development Plan (2007-2013).

Grants to 189 horticultural producers for capital investments in new facilities are provided for in the package. The grant aid covers all areas of the horticultural production sector - including mushrooms, protected crops, nursery crops, field vegetables, soft fruits/apples and bee-keeping/others - and will help to fund on-farm investments of about €23.2m.

Minister Sargent said that the level of interest in the horticulture aid scheme was now at its highest since the scheme started in 2000 and reflected a very high degree of confidence by producers in the future of the sector. "This is all the more encouraging at a time when the importance of fruit and vegetables in a healthy diet have been highlighted by recent reports in obesity"

Minister Sargent said that horticultural output was now valued at over €300m and retail sales were of the order of €650m. The importance of fruit and vegetables in a healthy diet and the growth in the amenity sector were key pointers for the future. "There is need for improved production structures and equipment for energy conservation, good agriculture practice, proper hygiene and environmental standards and improved working conditions. These improvements are essential to increase competitiveness, ensure sustainable production and to assist growers in meeting the increasing demands of retail outlets in terms of production standards" said Minister Sargent.

Minister Sargent said that he would urge shoppers to be on the lookout for locally grown fruit and vegetables and reminded them that fresh local food tastes good and with less transport is better for the environment. We should support local producers and by doing so we are making an investment in our own community.

A breakdown of the grant aid approved for each sector is given in the Annex beneath

Sector

No of grant Approvals

Total investment approved (€m)

Grant aid approved (€m)

Mushrooms 30 7.18 2.89
Field Vegetables 45 4.21 1.73
Soft Fruit/Apples 27 1.81 0.74
Protected Crops 20 4.23 1.73
Nursery Crops 53 4.73 1.89
Beekeeping/Others 14 1.06 0.43

Total

189

23.22

9.41

Date Released: 20 February 2008