Belfast Telegraph

Minister plants seeds of added growth with £3m agri-food boost

By Clare Weir

More than £3m is to be pumped into companies working in the ever-expanding agri-food industry.

Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill made the announcement that 18 companies will benefit from the funding bonanza while on a visit to Gilfresh Produce Ltd in Loughgall, Co Armagh.

She has also revealed that through match funding, the grants will trigger a total investment in the local economy of almost £8m.

Gilfresh is one of the largest grower and packers of vegetable produce in Northern Ireland and has been awarded a grant of £500,000 towards a total investment of £1.8m by the company to upgrade its existing processing and packing facilities.

The minister has said that investing in the sector will result in swifter and more long-term financial benefits than other economic initiatives.

In 2010 the agri-food sector brought in £3.7bn – a rise of 8.3% on the previous year and the industry supports more than 55,000 jobs.

Other companies benefiting from the windfall, under the Rural Development Programme’s Processing and Marketing Grant Scheme, include Ballygarvey Eggs Ltd and Ballyeamon Eggs, both from the Ballymena area, Cloughbane Farm Foods of Dungannon, Fivemiletown Creamery and Mash Direct of Comber.

The minister said: “I am determined to support further growth in the sector through schemes like this and by also developing a longer term strategic vision for the sector in partnership with other departments and the industry.”

Belfast Telegraph