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Minister Sargent Announces Grant Aid of €3.8M for Horticulture 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 €3.8m under the Grant Scheme for the Development of the Horticulture Sector under the National Development Plan (2007-2013).

Grants to 110 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 €9.5m.

Minister of State Sargent said that the level of interest in the horticulture aid scheme continues since the scheme started in 2000 and reflects 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 on obesity. The Government Obesity Report put the annual cost of obesity related problems in Ireland at €4 billion" Minister Sargent said.

Minister of State Sargent said that horticultural output was now valued at over €300m and retail sales were of the order of €650m.  The industry employs some 10,000 workers.  Locally grown produce being readily available in the shops is a key indicator for food security in 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 of State Sargent said that he would urge shoppers to be on the look out for locally grown fruit and vegetables and reminded them that fresh local food in season tastes good and with less transportation and storage costs is better for the environment. We should support local producers and by doing so we are making an investment in our own community.

Date Released: 17 April 2009