It will be a number of weeks before the assessment of applications to the Scheme of Investment Aid for the Development of the Commercial Horticulture Sector is completed, the Department of Agriculture has confirmed.

As the funds available under the scheme are limited, investments will be in competition for grant-aid.

The deadline for submissions to the scheme was December 16 last month.

The scheme is intended to assist in the development of the horticulture sector, including beekeeping, by grant-aiding capital investments in specialised plant and equipment as well as emerging technologies specific to commercial horticulture production.

The scheme aims to facilitate environmentally friendly practices, promote the diversification of on-farm activities, improve the quality of products and improve working conditions, according to the Department.

Horticulture farmers who applied to the scheme had to include a business plan, the latest set of accounts as well as up-to-date and fully descriptive signed quotations showing the net cost of the proposed investment in their application to the Department.

The funding scheme is eligible to investments which have to be completed and claimed for no later than September 29, 2017, according to the Department.

The scheme is open to all horticultural sectors, including protected crops, nursery crops, field vegetables, soft fruit, apples, beekeeping and mushrooms.

Grant aid will be provided by the scheme at a rate of 40%, but the maximum rate may rise to 50% in the case of young farmers.

To qualify for the higher rate of grant aid on the basis of being a young farmer, the applicant must be under 35 years of age on the date of receipt of a valid application by the Department.

The minimum investment which will be considered for grant aid is €10,000, except in the case of beekeeping where the minimum investment required will drop to €2,000.