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Minister of State McEntee's Strong Praise for Soft Fruit Growers and Researchers

Speaking today in Carlow at the official opening of the National Berry Seminar, which was organised by Teagasc, the Irish Soft Fruit Growers' Association and Bord Bia, Shane McEntee T.D. Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, praised Irish growers for investing in protective structures in recent years as well as other specialised equipment to reduce input costs and improve labour efficiency.

In addition, the Minister praised the work done by Teagasc in developing Irish strawberry 'tray' plants that have in many cases replaced lower quality imported strawberry plants. The Minister used these two achievements to highlight "the need to embrace science and emerging technologies to allow Ireland meet consumer demand for food in a manner that maximises the producer's income as well as minimising environmental impact". On the need to continue investment in the sector, the Minister said "Notwithstanding the constraints imposed by the current economic situation a budget of €3.25m was secured for the Scheme of Investment Aid for the Development of the Commercial Horticulture Sector in 2012" and he was pleased to announced that €1.4m of this had been allocated to facilitate specialised capital investments by 30 successful applicants within the soft fruit and protected crops sector.

The Minister concluded his address by pointing out that despite the recession there is very strong consumer demand for Irish grown soft fruit and that he saw "great opportunities for the Irish berry sector to develop further if all parties come together to innovate and address the remaining challenges we are facing".

Note for Editors

This biennial event is targeted at the main Irish soft fruit producers as well as representatives from the wholesale and retail sectors. In 2011 output from the Irish protected crops sector was worth an estimated €74m at farm gate level. Within this soft fruit output was valued at an estimated €29m with strawberries accounting for over 90% of this value.

Ireland's strawberry industry has developed significantly in recent years from a situation where largely field based production meant harvesting was concentrated in the traditional June-July period and much of the crop was destined for low value processing. Irish strawberry growers now produce top quality fruit from early April right through to mid-November largely using polythene based protective cropping structures which allow them achieve premium prices.

Date Released: 01 May 2012