€15 million LEADER food fund aims to ‘sustain rural livelihoods’

Minister for Rural and Community Development Michael Ring and Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed have launched the ‘LEADER Food Initiative’ – a €15 million fund for artisan / small food and beverage businesses.

The initiative will provide financial supports – including for the renovation and extension of production facilities and the purchasing of processing equipment – as well as supporting participants in the artisan food and beverage sector in areas such as market development, competitiveness and innovation.

The maximum amount of funding available is €200,000 per project and funding will be provided for both capital investment and softer supports related to analysis and development or training.

This includes support for collaborative proposals where food businesses jointly address common processing and marketing challenges.

The initial tranche of €5 million will be allocated in 2018. Based on the experience in delivering the initial tranche of funding, it is anticipated that the remaining €10 million of this LEADER Food Initiative funding will be rolled out by 2020.

Announcing the scheme, Minister Ring said: “The LEADER Food Initiative will make a vital contribution to the development of local food businesses which are central to the economic sustainability of rural areas and an important source of local jobs.

“Many local artisan producers have wonderful products; but require additional investment in production facilities, equipment, processing and marketing which can help them take the next step and bring their product to a wider market.

The LEADER Food Initiative will support investment in marketing, product quality and supply chain skills for these food producers. There will also be a focus on marketing distinctive local and regional food products.

“There is significant local, national and international demand for Irish artisan food and the LEADER Food Initiative will enable producers to get their product to a wider market,” he said.

The minister said the initiative has the potential to help create jobs in rural areas.

Employment increased in almost every region of the country in 2017; with almost nine out of every 10 new jobs located outside of the Dublin region.

“The LEADER Food Initiative will lead to further job creation in our regions and help create sustainable rural livelihoods,” said Minister Ring.

‘Realising potential’

Meanwhile, Minister Creed highlighted that Food Wise 2025 – the strategy for the agri-food industry – acknowledges the unique and important position of artisan and small food businesses in both the rural and national economy and the need to support the sector to “realise its potential”.

“This initiative will complement existing supports for artisan and small food businesses provided by my department and state agencies, including Food Works, developed by Bord Bia, Teagasc and Enterprise Ireland for start-up food entrepreneurs; and retailer programmes, for example Supervalu’s Food Academy,” he said.

Bord Bia has a dedicated website, with detailed information on the supports and opportunities for small food businesses.

“This specific funding is to support capital investment and the purchasing of processing equipment in addition to addressing emerging challenges through investment in areas such as market development, competitiveness and innovation,” he said.

The ministers concluded by encouraging artisan and small food businesses in rural Ireland to contact the Local Action Group (LAG) or Implementing Partner in their area as soon as possible to discuss the available funding opportunities.

All applications for funding will be managed through the LEADER LAGs. The LAG contact details are available here.