A €3m scheme of investment aid will be provided for the seed potato sector, according to Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue.
He made the announcement following a meeting of cabinet on Tuesday.
The scheme, which will be available for the period 2022-2023, will be aimed at accelerating the development of capacity within the seed potato sector and aid improvements in the production, storage and marketing infrastructure of seed potatoes.
It will do this by providing grant assistance to producers towards the capital cost of specialised equipment and facilities.
The scheme will be funded under Ireland’s allocation from the Brexit Adjustment Reserve (BAR) fund.
The measure follows disruption to Ireland’s seed potato supply as a result of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union.
Following the end of the Brexit transition period on 1 January 2021, the import of seed potatoes from Great Britain into the EU was banned.
The Department of Agriculture says it is finalising preparations to launch the seed potato investment scheme and that it will “conclude this work very shortly”.
Reviving the sector
Minister McConalogue said that “there is great potential in reviving the domestic seed potato sector” and that the new scheme will recognise the “challenges faced by the Irish potato sector in fulfilling its annual demand for access to high-grade seed potato following the exit of the UK from the EU”.
“This presents a timely opportunity for the Irish seed potato sector to develop capacity and expand to ensure a reliable supply of domestically-produced high-grade seed potato material, with the support of the dedicated seed certification service provided by my Department and the Tops Potato Centre in Donegal,” he said.
Minister Pippa Hackett, who has special responsibility for horticulture, said the scheme will be a “hugely positive step in contributing to shorter supply chains and sector sustainability in a domestic industry that is synonymous with our country”.
“Ireland is the only EU member state designated a high-health status under EU legislation for the growing of seed potatoes.
"Investing in the sector to facilitate increased availability of domestically-produced high-grade seed stocks for Irish ware growers is vitally important to protect our high-health status and ensure the potato industry grows to its full potential,” she said.
Support for other farm sectors
Welcoming the funding for the seed potato sector, Sinn Féin agriculture spokesperson Matt Carthy TD said it “must represent just the first tranche” of Brexit Adjustment Reserve (BAR) funding to farmers and called for similar funding to be made available to other farm sectors.
Deputy Carthy said he has been “pressing the minister for agriculture to support this sector since last year”.
“Irish growers have relied heavily on the importation of seed potato from Scotland. Brexit has severely disrupted this supply, so it stands to reason that the BAR would be used to develop the sector domestically and help make Ireland more self-sufficient in seed potato,” he said.